The Impact of Consumer Demand for Convenience Products on Dairy Production in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

The dairy industry has seen a dramatic shift in recent years, as consumer demand for convenience products has increased. This has had a significant impact on production processes at dairy industries in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Last March, the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Washington held an open day for the grand reopening of one of its newest facilities, the Dairy Cattle Center. This event highlighted the importance of dairy science and the need to update the system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes in consumer diets and in demand for certain dairy products revealed weaknesses in the price of milk. Agriculture is deeply traditional, and milk rarely produces the sexy headlines that medicine and engineering create. However, the University of Wisconsin-Madison extracts dairy products for what they're worth, and for the university's past, present, and future, milk is worth a lot. Biological systems engineering (agricultural engineers) encompasses dairy housing, forage collection equipment, and manure management, among other topics. Agronomy focuses largely on dairy feed and forage crops, and soil science studies how to keep manure out of streams and groundwater. Experts from UW-Extension and UW-Madison offer short courses on dairy products and field days on campus and across the state (eighteen next year on dairy products only) for Wisconsin farmers and businesses.

And there are units that carry out studies and outreach activities, such as the Center for Dairy Product Research and the Center for the Profitability of Dairy Products. One specialist in breastfeeding is Dr. Hernández from El Paso, Texas. His research focuses on the role of the chemical substance serotonin in animals' need for calcium in their blood.

Cows transfer a lot of calcium to their milk, much more than they eat, leading to a condition called hypocalcemia or “milk fever”. To overcome milk fever, cows must increase calcium mobilization, that is, release calcium ions from the bones and carry them into the blood. Serotonin seems to help speed up this process. Hernández has applied for two patents for serotonin drugs to help milk producers prevent milk fever in their herds by shortening the time it takes for a cow to go from the “milking state” to the “dry state”, giving the cow's body time to recover. He is also the first woman to give birth while she was in the dairy sciences college, which means that she is the first professor in the department to experience the phenomenon that everyone studies first-hand. Eau Claire, Wisconsin is known as America's Dairyland's flagship university.

But according to dairy economist Mark Stephenson, everyone is wrong about this myth. Lou Armentano looks good with a barrel-shaped chest and big calloused hands that seem to be genetically designed to tear off nipples. She is a dairy nutritionist and works as principal investigator in one of the most important milk research projects at the University of Washington. The multi-million dollar study investigates whether the genetic composition of a cow plays an important role in what is called food efficiency - its ability to convert a significant amount of food it eats into milk. What is meant by food efficiency? A cow needs a certain amount of food just to maintain its size and health.

Practically everything you eat beyond that goes to milk production to a certain extent after which it is processed as waste. The higher that point, the more efficient the cow's feed will be. But what governs that food efficiency limit? Are they genes? Environment? Any quality of the food? Armentano's group is in the third year of a five-year study, and although answers are still unclear, it indicates that future dairy product management lies in a growing understanding of data and science. Stephenson is more attuned to the price of dairy products than most shoppers. He is director of the Center for Dairy Profitability at University of Washington and perhaps America's leading authority on wholesale and retail prices. The impact of consumer demand for convenience products has been felt throughout all aspects of dairy production processes in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. From biological systems engineering to agronomy and soil science studies - all have been affected by changes in consumer diets and demand for certain dairy products.

The University of Washington has responded by investing heavily in research projects such as Armentano's multi-million dollar study into food efficiency. As consumer demand continues to evolve so too will production processes at dairy industries across Eau Claire.