In just a few weeks, there have been many changes on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Distance learning alternatives have replaced in-person classes, and nearly all faculty, staff and students are working remotely in accordance with Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order.
Under these extraordinary circumstances, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has closed the Dairy Cattle Center for up to 60 days, effective March 27.
“Without students on campus or significant research being conducted in the DCC, and in anticipation of possible labor shortages due to COVID-19 illness, it was a straightforward choice to temporarily close the campus facility and consolidate our herd at our agricultural research stations,” says Kent Weigel, professor and chair of the Department of Dairy Science.
The final milking occurred on March 27. Employees spent the next several days cleaning the facility to prepare for a reopening. External vendors assisted with shutting down the milking equipment and safely capping the silos to maintain the quality of the feed that remains in storage. Full-time employees at the DCC will be given the opportunity to work at the Emmons Blaine Dairy Cattle Research Center at the university’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station, near Arlington, Wis.
Foremost Farms, the Wisconsin-based dairy processing cooperative that collects milk from the DCC cows, will coordinate with the state milk inspector at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to place the DCC in a “dry” status. If the closure lasts longer than 60 days, the DCC will need to undergo a reopening inspection to maintain its Grade A milk license. University officials will reevaluate plans for the DCC in early May.
LABOR SHORTAGE: Without students on campus, and in anticipation of possible labor shortages due to COVID-19 illness, it was a straightforward choice to temporarily close the campus facility, says Kent Weigel, chair of the Department of Dairy Science.
The DCC was built in 1956 to replace the original dairy barn built in 1898. It underwent a $3 million renovation in 2013 to update feed storage, milking facilities, ventilation and living conditions for the cattle, as well as an $800,000 renovation of the classroom, laboratory and locker room spaces in 2017.
In a typical academic year, the facility is used heavily by undergraduate, graduate and professional students in UW-Madison’s dairy science, veterinary medicine and Farm and Industry Short Course programs for hands-on training and research. Fifteen courses use the facility during a typical academic year. It is also used for numerous research projects that require close proximity to campus laboratories.