Dairy research at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) contributes to the development of successful dairy production practices including livestock health, nutrition, and reproduction. As the first land grant institution in the Midwest to develop an organic dairy herd dedicated to research and education, the WCROC is the only university-sanctioned operation to raise conventional and organic dairy herds side-by-side. We have 120 cattle in our organic herd and 140 cattle in our conventional herd. We milk anywhere from 200 to 280 cows, twice daily.
Research is conducted in livestock barns and grazing pastures in collaboration with the Department of Animal Science. Dairy science research findings and project outcomes are shared with U of Minn. Extension, and are made available on the U of Minn. Extension website.
Nutrition, health and best herd-management practices for improved herd efficiency remains a primary focus area in our research. We also study crossbreeding systems to determine which breeds offer greater milk longevity and overall improved health, all with the aim of enhancing dairy production. Our dairy herd consists of Holstein crosses that incorporate European genetics (Montebeliarde, Swedish Red and Normande) in order to enhance grazing capabilities. Learn more.
Innovative renewable energy efforts are going into the WCROC milking parlor in collaboration with the WCROC Renewable Energy team. We've installed solar thermal collectors, a variable frequency drive, and a thermal storage tank. Our goal? Generate as much electricity as we use in harvesting milk. Read more.
Organic dairy production research at the WCROC aims to help producers and farmers transition from conventional to organic herds, as well as to provide herd management strategies for existing organic dairy producers. We hope to mitigate challenges and provide practical, innovative solutions for those raising organic dairy herds. The organic dairy herd at the WCROC is home to one of only two certified organic dairy farms at land-grant research universities in the United States. Learn more.
- Why Grass Matters
- Automated Calf Feeder
- Three-Breed Crossbreeding at the U of MN
- An alternative to indoor housing (Dairy Star)
- Genetics for a grazing herd (Progressive Dairyman)
- Grazing the Dairy (Farming Magazine)
- Supplementing grazing dairy cows: economics
- U of MN awarded a three-year, $1.4 million project to advance animal health on organic farms from the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative. The project will be led by Dr. Brad Heins, Associate Professor of Dairy Science at the U of MN WCROC, Morris, MN. Read more.
- Wheat and rye as alternative forage.
Precision dairy technology allows us more insight into individual and group behavior, as well as eating habits and physiological indicators. At the WCROC, we have tags for all 230 of our lactating dairy cows. We are observing activity and rumination of cows on pasture an in winter housing systems to evaluate fertility and health of grazing cattle. With the data provided from the various tags, we are able to track the activity and rumination levels in our herd. Learn more.
Faculty & Staff
- Brad Heins, Associate Professor, Dairy Science
- Darin Huot, Assistant Scientist
- Mark Smith, Livestock Crew Supervisor
- Roger Gausman, Farm Animal Attendant
- Keith Graff, Farm Animal Attendant
- Matt Hilbrands, Farm Animal Attendant
- LeAnn Honzay, Farm Animal Attendant
- Cindy Lowry, Farm Animal Attendant
- Tim Rach, Farm Animal Attendant