Of all the places around the world University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Management instructor Ted Halbach has travelled to judge dairy cows, he sees Madison as the best place to be a dairy scientist.
Halbach, an instructor at UW-Madison since 1998, coached the university’s dairy judging team through 2010. During that time, the team won three national championships and had the highest winning percentage of any American university.
He has judged competitions in about 20 different states as well as Japan and Brazil, looking at characteristics of the cows that produce the world’s milk, including strength and traits that contribute to the yield and longevity of milk production.
Foreign countries often purchase bull sperm from the U.S. for use in the breeding of dairy cows, according to Halbach.
“We really lead the world right now in the area of dairy cattle genetics,” Halbach said. “Wherever you go, U.S. dairy genetic companies have a presence.”
Halbach grew up on a family farm in Arizona and participated in youth programs such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and co-managed a farm with his father until 1998, when he sold the cows and made a career move to Wisconsin.
Though he said dairy science “was in my blood a little bit,” Halbach also said the idea that people have to grow up on a dairy farm to work in the dairy industry is a misconception.
Halbach said dairy management systems in Wisconsin have, in the past 15 years, become more similar to those in the west.
He said these developments, including managing extreme weather conditions, are necessary for Wisconsin to remain competitive in the global dairy market as the industry continues to expand.
”It’s encouraging that these dairies that are expanding in Wisconsin are family dairies,” Halbach added.
His duties at the university are primarily instruction, with some involvement in recruitment of new undergraduates to the dairy science program.
“Wisconsin, and UW-Madison in particular, is really the hub of the dairy industry,” Halbach said. “If you are passionate about dairy, it’s definitely the place to be.”