September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

UW-Madison Dairy Cattle Center to be remodeled

One aspect of the remodeling of the UW-Madison Dairy Cattle Center is larger stalls. The new ones will measure 78- by 50-inches and will include mattresses. (Photo submitted0
One aspect of the remodeling of the UW-Madison Dairy Cattle Center is larger stalls. The new ones will measure 78- by 50-inches and will include mattresses. (Photo submitted0

By By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

MADISON, Wis. - The old dairy cattle center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is getting a new look.
At the end of May, work will start on remodeling the building that houses the Madison dairy herd, plus a milking parlor and classrooms. It's a $3 million undertaking that will wrap up a project that upgrades all of the university's dairy cattle facilities. New buildings have already been constructed at the Marshfield and Arlington Agricultural Research Stations.
Tucked back on the ag campus, on Linden Drive, the dairy cattle center dates to 1956 and is 56 years old. Due to space constraints, the remodeling won't add to the building, but will involve a makeover of the inside.
Kent Weigel, chairman of the dairy science department, said the revamped building will allow for better cow care. Larger stalls and improved ventilation and cooling are on the drawing board, along with a new milking parlor, new silos, an improved milking observation area, a new teaching arena, and a revised manure handling system.
The center sees a great deal of use, according to Weigel.
"While we use it for research, it is primarily a teaching barn," Weigel said. "Our dairy science undergraduates may go through it 30 to 40 times in a semester, depending on what classes and labs they're taking. We typically have 85 or so undergraduate students enrolled in our program."
The center is home to 80 to 100 cows, thanks to the dairy science department and the school of veterinary medicine combining their herds. The Holsteins, Jersey and crossbred herd has a rolling herd average of 26,050 pounds of milk, but that number is for the cows at Arlington and Marshfield, too. In all, said Weigel, about 600 cows are milking at the three locations.
Perhaps the most dramatic change at the dairy cattle center will involve the milking parlor. It's a small one now - just a double-four.
Besides its size, the parlor is not cow friendly. They have to step up to enter it.
The new parlor will be a BouMatic double-six herringbone. BouMatic, headquartered in Madison, is donating the parlor and is including free installation. Weigel estimated the parlor's value at approximately $250,000.
Three million dollars for a remodeling project "sounds like a lot," Weigel said. But it goes fast. BouMatic's donation certainly helped us out."
Like the present parlor, the new one will have windows so visitors can watch milking.
The new parlor will make milking go faster. But Weigel noted that housing the cows in tiestalls instead of freestalls slows things down.
But that can't be helped, since tiestalls are needed for research purposes. It's much easier to feed cows individually for research when they are in tiestalls. And it's much easier to simply find a particular cow.
Several research projects are underway at the dairy cattle center. One involves "trying to find the genetic basis for variations in feed intake," Weigel said.
Since dairy cows have tended to become larger over the past 56 years, the old stalls will be replaced with 82 larger ones. The new stalls will measure 78 inches long and 50 inches wide and will be equipped with Promat Pasture Gel mattresses.
For additional cow comfort, the barn will be fitted with an evaporative cooling system. An update of the manure management system that uses two barn cleaners is another part of the remodeling project.
The present teaching arena will get converted to tiestalls, and a new arena will be built. A "hospital" area is part of the center and will remain. Classrooms, offices and a small dormitory will continue to be part of the center.
Outside, two - and maybe three - new silos will replace the six old ones. Some of the present silos are leaking and are on the small side, Weigel said. The new structures will stand 80 feet tall.
The project is expected to be finished in January of 2013. In the meantime, the Madison center's cows will be trucked to the research station at Arlington, about 25 miles north, where they will temporarily join the 500 head there.
Weigel said he is excited about the remodeling effort. The current building isn't the most inviting for visitors, but the remodeled one should be much better, he indicated.
"We get tons of visitors. But we don't encourage many because the facility is so old," Weigel commented.
Weigel added that he is pleased that the dairy cattle center is being remodeled and is staying on the UW-Madison campus.
"For years, we've been able to tell people, 'We have cows on campus,' and we're in the middle of a mid-sized city," Weigel noted. "That's something most universities don't have."
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