MADISON (WKOW) -- Some TV ads say that happy cows come from California, well maybe not anymore. The happiest dairy cows could soon be at UW-Madison, after some needed changes come their way.
For a while now, UW Dairy Science experts have had a beef with their cows' living conditions at the Dairy Cattle Center. Each cow produces about 10 gallons of milk a day, but they're hoping to get even more out of them, by making them more comfortable.
The center was built back in 1956, a crucial teaching and research facility, but a lot has changed since then. Now, staff struggle to keep the cows cozy in their outdated home. They've tried adding mattresses and lengthening the stalls, but that's just not enough for the cows of 2012.
"The stalls are a little small for the animals because cows today are bigger than they were 56 years ago," says Kent Weigel, Dairy Science professor and department chair.
Dairy cattle experts say the more stressed a cow is, the less likely she is to produce a good amount of milk. So they're hoping by improving the living conditions, the cows will inevitably produce more milk.
After more than a decade of planning, the center's 88 cows are moovin' on up to a new, $3 million home. They'll have bigger stalls, improved ventilation for the hot weather and even gel mattresses.
But it's not just the cows that'll benefit. The facility is an important resource for UW students studying animal sciences. The UW is one of the only universities in the Midwest that has a farm-like atmosphere right downtown on campus.
From twice a day milkings, to feeding and care, the facility is almost entirely student run. Nearly 200 students take classes and work at the center each year.
The Dairy Cattle Center is also a hot spot for visitors. Nearly 2,000 people stop by to watch the milking process every year, so a new milking parlor is long overdue. School groups and families can set up tours through the UW visitors center, or just stop by during milking hours, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
"This is their access to cows, their access to the dairy industry, so we're in the public eye very much. I think it would be a very welcome update," says unit manager Valerie Schutzkus.
The $3 million project is funded by the state, but they've saved thanks to donations from area businesses. Among others, Boumatic of Madison is donating a $250,000 milking parlor.
Construction on the project begins in May. The site will have to be closed down for a semester, but they hope to be back up and running by the following semester, in January 2013. Until then, the cows will be taken to one of the UW's other dairy facilities, in Arlington or Marshfield.
Cows at the Dairy Cattle Center help produce the Babcock Hall Dairy Store's ice cream and cheese.