The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been selected to develop the curriculum for a new $400 million dairy training center being established by the Nestle corporation in China's northeast province of Heilongjiang.
Nestle executives will be on campus on Monday, June 10 to sign a three-year, $1.7 million agreement under which UW-Madison personnel will design and help deliver a series of courses covering key aspects of dairy farm management, including milk quality, milking management, reproductive management, feeding and feed delivery, animal health, biosecurity and overall farm management skills.
"The curriculum will range from practical training for farmworkers to managerial level training for farm managers to courses for expert consultants who will be advising those managers," explains UW-Madison dairy science professor Pamela Ruegg, who is leading the project with dairy science professor David Combs and Karen Nielsen, director of the university's Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development.
The new Dairy Farming Institute is the key element of Nestle's effort to establish a larger, more reliable source of high quality milk to supply its processing facilities in China. The DFI will include a training center and three demonstration farms to teach farmers and dairy industry professionals the skills needed to manage larger, more sophisticated dairy operations.
“This is a natural extension of the Wisconsin Idea," Ruegg says. "What's made the U.S. dairy industry so productive is our ability to apply scientific expertise to solve real problems. As we look at the global expansion of the dairy industry, this project is bringing university expertise to solve global problems like food security and food safety.”
The UW-Madison team's primary role is to plan the format, content and delivery of the training. Most of the actual teaching will be done by trainers employed by the Dairy Farming Institute or by expert consultants supplied by dairy industry firms -including several from Wisconsin — that are collaborating on the project.
"We will train in country when appropriate at the highest level," Ruegg says. "We'll be training the trainers and the professionals, such as veterinarians. We're responsible for development of core competencies, learning objective, curriculum, quality control and evaluation.
The effort will involve many UW-Madison's dairy scientists as well as specialists with dairy-related expertise in the School of Veterinary Medicine and other disciplines such as biological systems engineering and agricultural economics, as well as experts in curriculum and instruction.
The UW-Madison was chosen from a wide field that included top agricultural schools in several countries, Ruegg says. She believes the UW-Madison was selected because of its reputation as a world leader in dairy science overall and particularly in the area of milk quality and food safety, which have been major issues for milk processors in China. Another key factor was the UW-Madison's long experience doing dairy training in China and its extensive network of connections within the Chinese dairy industry.
"This is a natural extension of the Wisconsin Idea," Ruegg says. "What's made the U.S. dairy industry so productive is our ability to apply scientific expertise to solve real problems. As we look at the global expansion of the dairy industry, this project is bringing university expertise to solve global problems like food security and food safety."