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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654

Email: Dean Parrella


Food production and processing contribute $2.2 billion to Idaho’s gross state product. As many as 51,000 Idaho jobs can be linked to the dairy industry. An increase in these industries also presents growing challenges including nutrient management and water quantity and quality concerns.

Research underway at the University of Idaho is helping dairies to become more sustainable while also helping the industry grow.

The dairy will have a herd size of 2,000 animals (average size of a herd in Idaho) and will be located in the heart of the state’s dairy producing region. While research data generated at CAFE will have broad implications across the U.S., the semi-arid environment where most of Idaho’s dairies are located will make CAFE’s research indispensable in the water-constrained West. CAFE’s location, herd size sand research scope make it uniquely positioned to address real-world issues facing the dairy and food processing industries.

Through applied research, outreach and teaching, the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment will be a sustainable agriculture system focused on providing global solutions to ongoing issues facing agriculture, food, the environment and society now and for years to come.

Animal Related and Environmental Research

The sustainability of the dairy industry relies on the ability to address concerns regarding the health and welfare of animals in commercial dairies and tackle issues related to a dairy’s “footprint” or environmental impact. These efforts will require a balanced approach between increasing productivity and efficiency while maintaining a sustainable ecosystem. Research involving multiple disciplines will:

  • Determine best practices ensuring animal health and welfare with high-quality milk production
  • Evaluate feed ingredients to meet requirements for good health and productivity
  • Implement robotic systems into herd management and milking and evaluate long-term use
  • Assess alternative housing systems to improve cow comfort and longevity
  • Examine low-stress handling and transportation
  • Evaluate systems to efficiently deliver irrigation water and nutrient management
  • Create value-added byproducts from waste materials

Agronomic Research

The Magic Valley region produces some of the highest quality crops in the country. To sustain this standard in production, CAFE will explore the relationships between animal and crop agriculture — an interdependent connection in the Magic Valley. Agronomic research will:

  • Find economical approaches to promote water and soil quality
  • Assess alternative feeds which may require less use of chemicals and water in production of feed ingredients
  • Improve feed production through use of integrated pest management, and better management of soil health, irrigation practices and use of renewable energy technologies
  • Evaluate approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairies
  • Analyze policy and legal approaches promoting environmental protections

Food Science Research

Research in multiple disciplines can contribute to innovations in food safety and quality to:

  • Improve dairy management to ensure safe production, transport and handling of milk
  • Identify processing and production innovation to reduce food safety risks
  • Innovate new products with functional food and other healthful attributes
  • Improve engineering in food processing to maximize food quality and safety
  • Reduce the environmental impact of food processing
  • Train current and future employees for the food processing industry

Outreach and Education

CAFE will provide extensive opportunities to engage with the community. Some of these efforts will:

  • Expand vocational training programs for the community
  • Increase awareness and knowledge of the industry for the local community
  • Provide continuing education for producers and farmworkers through on-site workshops, online activities and professional meetings
  • Encourage dialogue among ethicists, behaviorists, dairy scientists and veterinarians to communicate findings to the public

Workforce Development

A strong partnership with the College of Southern Idaho and many of their faculty involved in agricultural programming and workforce development will allow CAFE to address industry employment needs across the spectrum. A partnership between the U of I and CSI will:

  • Expand educational offerings for place bound students
  • Increase the shared degree options between U of I and CSI
  • Offer continuing education opportunities for those already in the workforce
  • Enhance worker safety training
  • Build a pipeline of educated students prepared to enter the workforce

Agricultural production associated with dairy in Idaho impacts Idahoans’ quality of life in many ways. CAFE research will improve sustainability in the industry by enabling producers, dairies and food processors to adopt practices and policies to meet the sustainability requirements of their customers.

CAFE research will also address the economic, social and cultural sustainability of rural communities and diverse populations as well as the quality and sustainability of air, land and water resources of the rural communities impacted by the dairy industry.

Additionally, research through CAFE will support the economic vitality of agricultural and food production by expanding markets and food products to increase Idaho’s GDP. CAFE will encourage the development of innovative new food products and product attributes, along with identifying new market opportunities nationally and internationally. 

Faculty expertise will address issues in the following disciplines:

Animal science

  • Dairy product
  • Herd health
  • Reproductive physiology
  • Ruminant nutrition
  • Veterinary entomology

Environmental science

  • Air quality
  • Bioenergy production
  • Civil and/or mechanical engineering
  • Crop/water modeling
  • Data management and/or visualization
  • Water systems management

Social science

  • Agricultural economy
  • Agricultural education
  • Extension education
  • Rural sociology
  • Science communication

Plant science

  • Biogeochemistry
  • Cropping systems agronomy
  • Forage crop agronomy
  • Soil science

Food science

  • Food safety microbiology
  • Sensory food processing

Interview with WA Ag Network

Learn from CALS’ Mark McGuire about bioeconomies and USDA’s $10M grant to CAFE.

Listen to the podcast

College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654

Email: Dean Parrella