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Dairy Science

Administrative Unit:Dairy Science
College/School: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Admitting Plans:M.S., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors Weigel (chair), Armentano, Combs, Fricke, Gianola, Ruegg, Shaver, Wattiaux, Wiltbank; Associate Professor Cabrera; Assistant Professors Hernandez, Stanton, White; Affiliate Professors Cook, Dopfer, Kirkpatrick, Nordlund, Oetzel, Reed, Reinemann


The Department of Dairy Science offers one of the most comprehensive dairy science graduate programs in the country. Faculty interests and research funding in dairy science span diverse areas of focus. Fundamental training in basic science fields related to these phases of dairy science is required. Minimum admissions requirements of the Graduate School must be met. Specific degree requirements are available from the department.

Students are offered a challenging research and educational opportunity in well-equipped laboratories with modern instrumentation. Students in dairy cattle nutrition may work in collaboration with laboratories of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center as well as those of the dairy science department. Dairy cattle at four locations are maintained by the department for both intensive and extensive experimental work.

Research is directed toward gaining greater understanding of the biology of dairy species with emphasis on dairy cattle, and improving usefulness of these species to society by modifying milk composition, improving animal health, assessing environmental impact, and enhancing economic efficiency. Current research emphases include developing and using molecular markers and genome maps to improve accuracy of selection and speed the rate of genetic improvement; developing and applying statistical methods for estimating genetic merit of individual animals and genetic parameters of populations from performance records; studying digestive and metabolic processes in lactating ruminants to improve production efficiency and health; enhancing utilization of forage nutrients by high-producing cows through modifications of the forage plants, harvesting and storage methods, and supplemental ration ingredients; development of reproduction management programs that optimize facility and profitability of dairy farms; understanding regulation of ovarian function and the regulation of fertility in lactating dairy cows; developing and evaluating milking, feeding, record-keeping, and decision and organizational systems that contribute to profitable dairy enterprises in a changing dairy economy; management factors affecting animal health and well-being.

About one-half of the department graduate students are domestic students, with two-thirds of those students Wisconsin residents, one-third out-of-state students, and one-half of the graduate students are international students. This diversity brings a national and global perspective to research, instruction, extension, and cultural understanding.

Master's Degree 

Two plans are available for graduate work leading to the master of science degree in dairy science. Students who plan to continue for the Ph.D. degree, or who expect to enter fields of work involving research, should take the M.S. degree in research. Students who wish to obtain more specialized training, but are not planning for a research career, may pursue a degree strictly through course work.

Ph.D. Degree 

Training for the Ph.D. degree prepares the candidate for a career of university teaching, research, and extension; for research in industrial or government laboratories; or for technical service in industry. The department office maintains specific information concerning career placements.

The greatest share of Ph.D. training will be achieved through selection and pursuit of a research project in a phase of dairy science in which the student has a strong interest. Students exercise individual initiative in the planning and execution of research projects. Because of the long-term nature of large-animal research, every effort is made to start students on research problems early in their graduate careers.

A minor in dairy science is available to doctoral students majoring in other departments. Contact the department for specific requirements.

Financial Aid 

Research assistantships are awarded to well-qualified students on a competitive basis. Around 70 percent of M.S. and Ph.D. candidates in dairy science are supported by research assistantships.


Undergraduate majors in biology, biochemistry, or genetics, as well as dairy or animal science, provide excellent background for graduate study in dairy science. Regardless of major, preparation should include biology (molecular, cellular, and population), physiology, chemistry (general and organic), mathematics (through calculus), and physics.

For more information: Department of Dairy Science, 266 Animal Sciences Building, 1675 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-3308; fax 608-263-9412; rook@wisc.edu; www.wisc.edu/dysci.