Dairy Management Projects


Funded research, Extension, and integrated projects that were completed or are under development by the UW Dairy Management program.

Active Projects

Title A Virtual Diary Farm Brain: The Next Big Lean in Dairy Farm Management Applying Artificial Intelligence.
Team V.E. Cabrera, M. Ferris, K. A. Weigel, M. Livny, H. White, J. Patel
Term 24 months, 2017-2019
Amount $500,000
Sponsor UW 2020
https://research.wisc.edu/funding/uw2020/

This project will develop a "virtual dairy farm brain," a state-of-the-art suite of real-time integrated dairy farm management decision support tools. The "virtual dairy farm brain" will mimic actual farm management and will learn as it goes by applying complex machine learning pipelines and exploiting the interdependencies of the complex integrated biological, physical, and informational dimensions of dairy farm systems. The project will determine if a dairy farm can substantially improve its economic and environmental performance by interacting, adopting and applying integrated, databased analytics, expert systems, and artificial intelligence contained in whole farm decision support tools through the "virtual dairy farm brain." This innovative project is anticipated to transform how dairy farms will operate in the future and likely become the next big leap in dairy farm management. Dairy farms have embraced technological innovations and procured vast amounts of permanent data streams, but the problem is that they have not been able to integrate all this information to improve whole farm based management and decision-making. It is imperative to develop a system that can collect, integrate, manage, and analyze on-farm and off-farm data in real-time for practical and relevant actions. This project's main assets include using existing data - cow, herd, farm, market, weather, crops, and soils - and integrating these data streams to produce new knowledge and optimized decision-support tools. The project is especially important and relevant to Wisconsin, the largest dairy farm state (10,000 farms), in which dairying contributes half of the agricultural economy, has an impact of $43 billion a year, and supports 80,000 jobs. (More)

Title Development of a Suite of Dairy Reproduction Decision Support Tools.
Team Cabrera, V.E.
Term 48 months, October 2013- September 2017
Amount $165,000
Sponsor Hatch Multiple Investigator Interdisciplinary
College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Specific Aim of this proposal is to promote more sustainable Wisconsin dairy farm production systems applying systematic whole-farm integrated evaluations. (More)

Title Genomic Selection and Herd Management Tools to Improve Feed Efficiency of the Dairy Industry
Team VandeHaar, M., Weigel, K., Armentano, L., Moody Spurlock, D., Tempelman, R., Veerkamp, R., Cabrera, V.E., Worku, M., Hanigan, M., Staples, C., Beede, D., Shaver, R., Wattiaux, M., Dijkstra, J., Pursley, R., Weber Nielsen, M.
Term 60 months, 2011-2016
Amount $5,000,000
Sponsor Integrated Solutions for Animal Agriculture
Agriculture Food and Research Initiative
National Institute of Food and Agriculture

This project will train 60 small beginning dairy farmers and help them to apply strategic decision-making regarding financial risks via three workshops across Wisconsin. Follow-ups will be established during workshops to later verify and measure positive application of the learning. To facilitate the adoption of new financial risk management strategies, part of the project will involve the creation of a user-friendly computer decision-making suite (i.e., the Wisconsin Benchmark Dairy Ratio tool) which will be used as an instrument of discussion and learning. The Agriculture Financial Advisor (AgFA©) dataset will be the foundation of these computer tools. Related curricula have been delivered across the state using the FAST tools suite from the University of Illinois. Evaluations have indicated that producers have greatly appreciated these trainings, however, they are requesting similar tools be created for Wisconsin's specific conditions. (More)

Title An Integrated Approach to Improving Dairy Cow Fertility
Team Cabrera, V.E., Fricke, P., Ruegg, P., Shaver, R., Weigel, M., Wiltbank, M.
Term 48 months January 2010 - January 2014
Amount $1,000,000
Sponsor Integrated Solutions for Animal Agriculture
Agriculture Food and Research Initiative
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Weblink : http://fyi.uwex.edu/repromoney/

This is an Extension-Research Integrated project addressing FY 2009 NIFA-AFRI Integrated Solutions for Animal Agriculture priorities of: (1) Improving Fertility in Agricultural Animals and (2) Preventing and Controlling On-Farm Disease. Our overall objective is to improve the reproductive efficiency of dairy cattle using an interdisciplinary team approach that will identify and remove barriers to reproductive success by linking outcomes of basic and applied research with an innovative producer responsive extension program. (More)

Title Strategies of Pasture Supplementation on Organic & Conventional Grazing Dairies: Assessment of Economic, Production & Environmental Outcomes
Team Cabrera, V.E., Gildersleeve, R., Wattiaux, M.,Combs, D.
Term 48 months January 2010 - January 2014
Amount $575,000
Sponsor Integrated Solutions for Animal Agriculture
Agriculture Food and Research Initiative
National Institute of Food and Agriculture

This is an extension and research project is designed to investigate the impacts of pasture supplementation decisions made by Wisconsin organic and conventional grazing dairies on selected economic, production and environmental variables. It is anticipated that organic dairy producers, transitioning producers and even conventional producers will benefit from this project as it identifies the farm level factors that influence pasture supplementation decisions and feed resource management on dairy farms. Project results will be utilized to develop outreach materials and decision aids that will be useful to farmers, extension agents and other agricultural professionals as they assist organic, transition, beginner or grazing dairy producers with farm planning and risk management decisions. (More)

Completed Projects

Title Development of a genomic testing decision support tool for Jersey dairy calves.
Team Cabrera, V.E., K. A. Weigel
Term 12 months, 2013-2014
Amount $11,000
Sponsor American Jersey Cattle Association
Title Development of a Suite of Dairy Reproduction Decision Support Tools.
Team Cabrera, V.E.
Term 24 months, 2011-2013
Amount $83,000
Sponsor Hatch Multiple Investigator Interdisciplinary
College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Specific Aim of this proposal is to systematically evaluate the profitability of dairy reproductive management strategies and develop a suite of simulation models and decision support systems that will allow scientists, farmers, farm consultants, and extension agents assess the economic value of reproductive programs. (More)

Title A Sustainable Wisconsin Dairy Farm Financial Management Model
Team Bolton, K., Cabrera, V.E.
Term 18 months, 2010-2011
Amount $47,000
Sponsor National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Title Energy Intensity, Carbon Footprint, and Environmental Impact of Pasture Based
Team Reinemann, D.J., Cabrera, V.E .
Term 24 months, 2010-2012
Amount $75,000
Sponsor Wisconsin NRCS Grazing Land Conservation Initative
Title An Integrated Web-Based Information System to Improve Wisconsin Dairy Farms' Price Risk Management and Sustainability
Team Gould, B.W., Cabrera, V.E.
Term 12 months, 2011-2012
Amount $15,000
Sponsor UW Madison Graduate School
Title Planning Grant: A Regional Approach to Climate Change Planning for Dairy and Beef
Team Several Institutions in the Midwest US
Term 12 months, 2010-2011
Amount $50,000
Sponsor Integrated Solutions for Animal Agriculture
Agriculture Food and Research Initiative
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Title Translation of Dairy Management Tools
Team Cabrera, V.E.
Term 18 months, 2010-2011
Amount $10,000
Sponsor The Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development
Title Success for Small Beginning Dairy Farmers
Team Cabrera, V.E., Vanderlin, J., Kirkpatrick,
Term 18 months July 2009 - December 2010
Amount $32,000
Sponsor North Central Risk Management Education Center
National Institute of Food and Agriculture

This project will train 60 small beginning dairy farmers and help them to apply strategic decision-making regarding financial risks via three workshops across Wisconsin. Follow-ups will be established during workshops to later verify and measure positive application of the learning. To facilitate the adoption of new financial risk management strategies, part of the project will involve the creation of a user-friendly computer decision-making suite (i.e., the Wisconsin Benchmark Dairy Ratio tool) which will be used as an instrument of discussion and learning. The Agriculture Financial Advisor (AgFA©) dataset will be the foundation of these computer tools. Related curricula have been delivered across the state using the FAST tools suite from the University of Illinois. Evaluations have indicated that producers have greatly appreciated these trainings, however, they are requesting similar tools be created for Wisconsin's specific conditions. (More)

Title Assessment of Gross Margin Insurance under Alternative Biofuels and Predicted Climatic Conditions: Implications for Wisconsin Dairy Farms
Team Cabrera, V.E.,Gould, B.W.
Term 24 months October 2009 - September 2011
Amount $59,000
Sponsor Hatch Multiple Investigator Interdisciplinary
College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The recent history of the U.S. dairy industry can be characterized as one with significant fluctuations in the price of milk at the farm level. Dramatic increases in energy and feed costs have added the new dimension of input price variability contributing to an increasingly risky production and marketing environment. Starting in August 2008 the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM-Dairy) insurance program has been added to the list of risk management tools available to Wisconsin dairy farm operators. This insurance program protects against unanticipated declines in gross margins which are defined as milk revenue minus feed costs. LGM-Dairy program could be considered a combination of the use of a put to limit milk price declines and a call to limit feed cost increases. This project will provide a better understanding of this new risk management tool and will develop educational materials to illustrate how LGM-Dairy could be effectively used by a variety of Wisconsin dairy farm operations. We will examine the role of LGM-Dairy for a variety of farm sizes and technologies versus traditional price risk management strategies. We will focus on the implications of alternative biofuels scenarios and climatic conditions. (CRIS)

Title Development of a Dairy Economic Decision Support System for Wisconsin
Team Cabrera, V.E.
Term 24 months October 2008 - September 2010
Amount $55,000
Sponsor Hatch - Individual
College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Specific Aim of this proposal is to assess management strategies to improve cost-efficiency and profitability in Wisconsin dairy farms through participatory research on dairy farms. Systems analyses and operation research will be used to simulate dairy herd systems to test and integrate new technologies and knowledge (e.g., nutrition, reproduction, physiology, health, genetics) for strategic dairy management. Emphasis will be given to artificial intelligence using computer simulation research and the development of custom-made software and a decision support system (DSS) tool, which will be carefully designed, user-friendly, and extensively tested. This project will follow a participatory framework with scientists, dairy producers, Extension agents, and dairy industry consultants to provide research-based farm management responses to current industry needs. The participatory approach will include the development and maintenance of a Web portal as a communication hub in the process of technology transfer. (CRIS

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