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DLC ready for grand opening

October 11, 2007

The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Dairy Learning Center will take place Oct. 12 after years of planning and almost one year of construction.

The idea for the DLC was first proposed in 1992 after a discussion on upgrading the current dairy facility at Lab Farm 1 evolved into the idea of a new facility, Larry Baumann said.

Baumann is a professor in the animal science program at UW-River Falls, whose emphasis is in dairy.

He has been involved with the DLC from the beginning, being on the original committee.

The DLC features a composted bedding housing system large enough for 100 cows and a Bou-Matic double-6 herringbone parlor, along with a StepMatrix lameness detection system.

The DLC also has a system for minimizing wastewater, a special needs barn to observe calving and the care of fresh cows (cows who have just calved), facilities for feed storage and nutrition, and computerized records, Baumann said.

There are also two 25-student classrooms at the DLC, with technology, which can expand to accommodate groups of 50.

“The biggest thing is the milking parlor,” Baumann said.

At the current dairy facility, cows enter and leave the parlor on an individual basis. In the new parlor, cows will enter and leave in groups, Steve Kelm, department chair of animal and food science, said.

“There’s quite a difference in terms of technology,” he said.

In the double-6 herringbone parlor, cows will stand at an angle to the person milking, so the cows will be handled from the side, Baumann said.

It is a nice, modern parlor where the students can get some of the best hands-on experience, Sylvia Kehoe, an animal science professor, said.

Kehoe teaches the lactation course (among others) in the program.

The DLC is a big upgrade from the current dairy facility.

“I think it’s a big step in our ability to exhibit best practices,” Kelm said.

The current dairy facility limits how cattle can be grouped and how cows that have calved can be managed, he said.

Students will have experience with in common practices with the use of the DLC, Kehoe said.

Students will be able to learn the basic foundations in managing a dairy cattle herd at the DLC. From start to finish, they will experience the entire spectrum, Baumann said.

“They get a good representation of the industry,” Kehoe said.

With the DLC, students will have a chance to learn the dairy practices that are common today versus learning practices that are 50 years old, she said.

UWRF has one of the three largest dairy programs in the United States with about 200 majors, Kehoe said.

Drew Johnson, a dairy science major, has taken the lactation and dairy production courses that have required him to do some work at the current dairy facility.

The DLC will be more efficient, he said, since less time will need to be spent on labor and more time can be spent on studies.

The composted bedding housing system, Johnson said, will add experience to his resume, as he has already become familiar with tie stall barns and free stall barns.

The current dairy facility at Lab Farm 1 has been in place since 1957. In 1985, an upgrade of the milking units, stalls and floor in the parlor was done, Baumann said.

“It was a small change,” he said.

Being in use since 1957, the current dairy facility is a very old system. It is challenging to find parts, if anything needs to be replaced, Kelm said.

After the proposed idea in 1992 for the DLC, approval for funding from the State Building Commission was needed, Baumann said.

After the approval, planning for the DLC proceeded.

Through the planning, faculty throughout the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences were asked for their initial thoughts and ideas for the DLC, Kelm said.

Faculty were asked what would be important to include in the facility that would be best utilized from a teaching standpoint.

“This is how we would ensure using the facility,” Kelm said.

However, architect bids were well over the budget due to a rise in construction costs in the late 1990s, Baumann said.

“We didn’t have enough money to build the facility,” he said, so the University needed to get approval for more funds.

The project was put on hold, but in 2003, final funding for the DLC was approved.

The total cost of the DLC to date is $9.3 million. The new buildings and facilities totaled $5.3 million, and the other $4 million went to overhead costs, Baumann said in an e-mail.

In 2005, the final go-ahead for the DLC was given.

In late 2005, early 2006, a contractor bid was approved.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the DLC took place on Oct. 20, 2006.

The buildings are in the process of being turned over to the University, Kelm said.

The DLC will be used for courses on a regular basis starting over J-Term, but as of now, it is being used on an as-need basis, as the milking cows are not scheduled to be moved to the DLC until after the ribbon-cutting. Calves were scheduled to move to the DLC early this week.

The milking parlor is not yet totally functional. The details of getting it ready for milking are still being finished, Baumann said.

“It’ll still get some pretty significant usage [this semester],” Kelm said.

A series of events have been scheduled surrounding the opening of the DLC.

Wednesday, a college pig roast was held. A community open house was held Thursday, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening is scheduled to take place at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 12, followed by a reception, tours and demonstrations.