Cargill donates thousands to University of Idaho large scale dairy research project

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/samuel howell
© GettyImages/samuel howell

Related tags Cargill Dairy Sustainability

Cargill is backing the University of Idaho’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) to the tune of $500K.

A spokesperson for the US agribusiness giant told us the donation would help accelerate the dairy research aspect of CAFE.

“Idaho CAFE presents a viable farm-scale solution for conducting the research needed to address the sustainability of the dairy industry nationwide,” said the dean of the university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Michael Parrella. “Cargill’s investment in this effort underscores the critical need for the research-based solutions that will benefit dairy producers for generations to come.”

The first cows will be milked the end of 2024, under this $22.5m multiphase research project. The farm will have capacity to house 2,000 cows when fully operational.

Located in the third-largest dairy-producing state in the US, researchers attached to CAFE will examine the sustainability of the dairy farming value chain from feed to milk and beyond. In addition, innovators will study additional revenue streams for farmers beyond milk from emerging bio-based products and carbon credit markets. 

“The work done here will be impactful not only for Idaho but at the national and international level,” noted Parrella last July, when the university broke ground on the research dairy site, as per an Idaho Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) report.

Demonstraton farm 

Because it will have the capacity to milk 2,000 cows, the University of Idaho (UI) demonstration farm will also be much larger than other research dairies in the US and more reflective in size of Idaho dairies.

It will be run like a commercial farm and host a variety of on-going research and demonstration experiments managed by UI faculty and staff. CAFE will also support UI’s extension/outreach and education missions by hosting field days, class field trips, undergraduate interns, and graduate student research

Members of Idaho’s dairy industry first approached university officials with the initial dairy research concept back in 1995. A lot of work and partnering took place thereafter to make the project a reality, Parrella told IFBF.

The Idaho Dairymen’s Association, which represents the state’s 400 dairies, provided $2m toward CAFE. 

For Idaho dairies, one of the biggest benefits of the research dairy is that it will conduct research under the same arid conditions most of the state’s dairies operate in, noted the IFBF piece.

Research focus 

The center, said UI, will be a leader in addressing constraints on water usage and environmental quality while supporting the agricultural sectors of dairy, livestock and cropland, as well as the food processing industries

Scientists at CAFE will research a broad range of areas including agricultural economics impact, labor management along with agriculture commodity risk management, animal health, productivity and genetic improvement, and forage cropping and agronomy.

They will also evaluate green energy production and energy-use conservation together with nutrient and wastewater management, odor and emissions control, water use and protection, among other sustainability parameters. 

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