Understanding the Changes in Consumer Demand for Dairy Products in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Jeff Lyon, CEO of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, has been forced to contemplate revising their system due to the changes in consumer diets and demand for certain dairy products during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has highlighted weaknesses in the price of milk. Dairy science has advanced significantly since the days of straw hats and bib monkeys. Last March, the University of Washington's Department of Dairy Science held an open day for the grand reopening of one of its newest facilities, the Dairy Cattle Center.

The College of Life Sciences and Agriculture released a press statement, but only local media outlets reported it. The University of Washington is America's Dairyland's flagship university, but dairy science appears to be a relic from its 19th-century heritage. Biological systems engineering (agricultural engineers) covers dairy housing, forage collection equipment, and manure management. Agronomy mainly focuses on dairy feed and forage crops, and soil science studies how to keep manure out of streams and groundwater.

UW-Extension and UW-Madison offer short courses on dairy products and field days on campus and across the state for Wisconsin farmers and businesses. The Center for Dairy Product Research and the Center for the Profitability of Dairy Products also carry out studies and outreach activities. UW-Madison extracts dairy products for what they're worth, and milk is worth a lot to the university's past, present, and future. Hernández is not a traditional faculty member in the Department of Dairy Sciences at the University of Washington.

He didn't grow up on a dairy farm; he is originally from El Paso, Texas, and had little connection with dairy products other than the milk he put in his morning cereal. He doesn't even like milk as food, but finds it scientifically intriguing. Hernández is an expert in breastfeeding and his research focuses on the role of the chemical substance serotonin. Cows transfer a great deal of calcium to their milk, much more than they consume.

This leads 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 appears 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.

Not only has breastfeeding become more interesting for Hernández since joining the faculty at the University of Washington due to his research; 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 the center of the milk universe; however, dairy economist Mark Stephenson says everyone is wrong about this myth. Lou Armentano looks like he should have spent his entire life on a dairy farm with his barrel-shaped chest and big calloused hands; however, he was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He works as principal investigator in one of the most important milk research projects at the University of Washington - a multi-million dollar investigation into whether genetic composition plays an important role in food efficiency - its ability to convert food into milk.

What does food efficiency mean? 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 before being processed as waste. The higher that point is, the more efficient the cow's feed will be. But what governs that food efficiency limit? Are they genes? Environment? Any quality of food? Armentano's group is in its third year of a five-year study; however, answers are still unclear. Regardless of outcome though, this study indicates that future dairy product management lies in an increasing understanding of data and science.