Being without a permanent director since June 2018, the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center (USDFRC) will now operate under the leadership of Dennis Hancock, who assumes its directorship beginning today.

Hancock leaves the University of Georgia, where he was a tenured faculty professor in the Crop and Soil Sciences Department. He served as their state extension forage agronomist since 2006. During his time in Georgia, Hancock developed a world-class extension and research program.

The USDFRC consists of a team of scientists and support staff who are based on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It also includes a research dairy facility in Prairie du Sac and a research unit in Marshfield, which houses several scientists. Dairy Forage Research Center scientists are involved in applied dairy forage research, cell wall biology and utilization research, and investigations into environmental issues and solutions that pertain to dairy farming.

Dennis Hancock

“Leaving Georgia wasn’t an easy decision . . . a lot of handwringing, but I kept getting signs that this was the right move at this time,” Hancock said in a discussion with Hay & Forage Grower. “It took some time to come to this decision, but I’m looking forward to the new challenge and opportunity.”

In addition to Hancock’s own Georgia educational efforts that focused on Southeast forage production and grazing management, the forage specialist has been a highly sought-after speaker for forage events throughout the U.S. He has also been a prolific writer, authoring numerous extension bulletins and fact sheets in addition to publishing many peer-reviewed, research journal articles.

Neal Martin, who served as the USDFRC director from 1999 until his retirement in 2013, was on the evaluation panel who tabbed Hancock.

“At an unprecedented time when farmers and ranchers struggle to meet the challenges of farm profitability, environmental stewardship, and soil health and social concerns, we are blessed to have Dennis in a prime research leadership position,” Martin commented to Hay & Forage Grower. “He has a fire to seek answers to forage and grassland challenges facing farmers and a wealth of collegial experience with scientists, extension workers, agribusiness, and producers. He will no doubt help enhance our understanding of forage and grassland utilization by dairy cattle,” he added.

Hancock assumes his new position with immediate projects and challenges to oversee. There are several scientist vacancies that need to be filled at the Center. Further, Congress has appropriated $72 million dollars to construct a new research dairy facility in Prairie du Sac, which will replace the current out-of-date farm structures that are nearly 40 years old.

Prior to Hancock’s hiring, the USDFRC was directed by Mark Boggess, who served that role from May 2014 to June 2018. He left the USDFRC to become the director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb. Since Boggess’ departure, the directorship has been filled on an interim basis, most recently by Wayne Coblentz, a USDA-ARS research scientist based in Marshfield.