Summary of Accomplishments for Genetics | Meat Science | Nutrition | Physiology


William A. Henry, the first professor of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin set about to provide scientific research to expand the state’s dairy industry in the late 19th century. Henry promoted the use of round silos, instead of the horizontal silos used in Europe, for storing feed for cattle during the winter making it possible to feed cattle well enough to produce milk year round. In 1887 Henry hired Stephen Babcock who developed the first test for butterfat content of milk. This simple test enabled cheese makers to give farmers a fair price for their milk and consistently produce high quality butter and cheese.

short course in old dairy barnIn 1886 the university offered its first winter agricultural “short course”. Created with support from the legislature, these schools were significant in educate farmers so that they could profitably make the move from wheat production to dairying. University sponsored “Farmers Institutes” held across the state brought farmers and scientists together to share ideas. The “short course” classes are still taught today and help to exemplify the Wisconsin idea “that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom”.

S.M. Babcock and E.B. Hart designed the first nutritional experiments that set the standard for diet ingredient research. By feeding diets of single grains (corn, wheat or oat concentrates and roughage) to 16 dairy heifers, these scientists proved that micro-components other than fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and salts were necessary for life and reproduction. Thus, the discovery of vitamins and essential trace minerals was set in motion. A few years later, EV McCollum used rats as a model to conduct the nutritional studies that led to the discovery of vitamins A and B. These results changed the way scientists look at the diets of animals and humans and started the nutritional research in Animal Husbandry at the UW.

Throughout the early 1900’s, nutrition researchers such as Gustav Bohstedt, Frank Morrison and John Fargo, explored the requirements of vitamins, minerals and trace elements in the diets of cattle, sheep, and swine. It was during this time that Morrison took over the revisions of Feeds and Feeding first published by Henry in 1898.

cattle,horses in stock pavillionIn order to improve the quality of livestock in the state, faculty in the Animal Husbandry department led the way in establishing breed organizations, co-operatives and milk testing associations. In 1906, the first stallion license law in the US was passed in WI, requiring draft stallions used as public sires, to pass requirements of confirmation and soundness. The Stock Pavilion was constructed in 1906 to house the department as well as provide auditorium space for classes, Little International Show, concerts and such notable political figures as Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, William Howard Taft, Vice President Marshall, Martin Luther King, Senator Edward Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

The Departments of Animal and Dairy Husbandry were formed in 1938. The Department was renamed Meat and Animal Science in the 1962 and merged with the Department of Poultry Science in 1996 to become the Department of Animal Sciences. In addition to serving the people of Wisconsin, faculty have published many articles in the Journal of Animal Science, served as editors of the Journal of Animal Science, been nominated to the American Society of Animal Science Fellows and numerous ASAS awards.

Today, the Department of Animal Sciences continues in the Wisconsin Idea tradition of excellence in Teaching, Extension and


  • 1912 First genetics experiments conducted
  • 1935 Sire proving program started
  • 1940 Experimental bull stud established on campus
  • 1950’s Genetics of coat color in minks, endocrine control of fur growth, the role of melanophor-stimulating hormone in mammals
  • 1960 Extensive research on the inheritance of blood group and blood protein polymorphisms of the domestic mink
  • 1980’s to present
    • Genetic components of size and shape variation Identification of the twinning gene
    • Bayesian approaches for inference about parameters of linear and nonlinear models (growth and lactation curves)
    • QTL identification of twinning genes and ovulation rate


  • 1949 Experimentally biopsied muscle from living animals to study quality
  • 1957 Exercise physiology related to improved porcine quality
  • 1960 Naming and extensive description of PSE (“pale, soft exudative) and DFD (“dark cutter”) in carcasses due to extremes in pH
  • Marbling shown to improve palatability
  • 1963 Pioneered use of the electron microscope to study postmortem changes in the ultrastructure of muscle
  • 1967 Eye lens nitrogen first used to estimate chronological age of livestock
  • 1968 Demonstrated that muscularity increased dressing & lean yield
  • 1980’s to present
    • Described fate of nitrites in cured meat products
    • Developed one of first monoclonal antibodies against titin
    • Described PSE condition in turkey muscle
    • Modified a method to separate muscle proteins with gel electrophoresis
    • Observed fate of listeria monocytogenes in meat
    • Developed a method to purify the full length native titin in muscle
    • Injection of sodium bicarbonate into pork to improve quality
    • First regression equation for the prediction of muscle content in pork carcasses
    • Broilers exposed to endotoxin via fecal aerosol cause a pink color defect in breast muscle; sodium tripolyphosphate and calcium chloride control the defect


  • 1898 First publication of Feeds and Feeding (Henry, later by Morrison)
  • 1905 Salt requirement experiments
  • 1907 “Balancing rations with restricted sources” A series of experiments using single source rations ( concentrates and roughage : corn v wheat v oats) fed to heifers which led to the discovery of essential vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients
  • 1909 Established the role of inorganic phosphorus “all of the phosphorus needed by an animal for skeleton, nuclein or phosphatide formation can be drawn from inorganic phosphate”
  • 1913 Rats used to conduct nutritional studies that led to the discovery of vitamin A and B
  • 1917 Iodine is important in preventing goiter in animals
  • 1924 Generation of Vitamin D activity in foods by irradiation
  • 1930 Fluoride toxicity in animals via rock phosphate
  • 1940 NPN utilization by ruminants established
  • Trace mineral salt experiments
  • 1968 Discovery of the transaminative pathway of methionine metabolism leading to an effective betaine treatment for homocystinuria
  • 1970’s Use of fresh liquid whey and corn in pig diets
  • 1980’s to present
    • Use of CLA to decrease feed intake while increasing lean muscle mass and decrease inflammatory response
    • Dietary vitamin E supplementation for the purpose of extending fresh beef color display-life
    • Exclusive location of the first two enzymes in lysine catabolism in the matrix of the liver mitochondrion of both the rat and piglet


  • 1895 First use of Tuberculin test
  • 1917 First use of diagnostic test for Johne’s Disease
  • 1930 to 70’s Pioneering studies leading to control of the estrous cycle, ovulation, and oocyte maturation
  • 1934 Brucellosis eradication program initiated
  • 1939 2000 cows artificially inseminated in Wisconsin
  • 1940 Egg-yolk buffer medium developed as semen extender
  • 1949 Research in embryo mortality
    1951 First surgical ET in cattle to produce calf
  • 1978 Concept of estrogen receptors in the uterus developed
  • 1980’s to present
    • Identification and characterization of mutant genes and their corresponding polymorphic protein products associated with hypercholesterolemia and dyslipidemia
    • In Vitro Maturation and Fertilization of bovine oocytes : First calf produced from in vitro matured and fertilized oocyte and first calf produced totally from in vitro matured, fertilized and cultured embryo
    • In Vivo Capacitation of Fresh and Frozen bovine sperm for IVF
    • Use of Reproductive Biotechnology to improve reproductive efficiency in US and developing nations
    • Use of Reproductive Biotechnology to preserve animal genetics
    • Use of stem cells in nuclear transfer and as a tool to diagnose genetic diseases