CDRF Research Programs

The California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) supports a variety of research and science-based educational pre-competitive programs on behalf of California dairy producers to increase demand for California- and U.S.-produced milk and dairy products based on their benefits throughout the entire value chain.

Environmental Management

The California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) has funded California-based initiatives in the sustainability area since 1988.  They are key contributors to the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) and the Dairy Cares communications program. These programs direct their efforts towards improving the environmental stewardship and animal care practices of California dairy farmers through education, communication, and accreditation programs. This support has assisted the dairy industry to tackle some consumer-sensitive issues in an effective way and in doing so, enables the industry to promote its commitment to sustainability issues to businesses and communities at large.

CDRF programs take a proactive approach to support the California dairy industry and invests in projects to ensure the California dairy industry achieves an economically viable, socially beneficial, world-class position in environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare.

From farm to fork, the California dairy industry is recognized as a vital source of essential nutrients and needs to be recognized by consumers as proactively managing its relationship with the environment.

Although the California dairy industry has already accomplished great strides in environmental stewardship, current and future regulations are wide-reaching, impacting all industries and stakeholders. The regulatory requirements for dairy farms surrounding water quality, water quantity, and air quality, specifically, will continue to impact long-term industry viability. CDRF facilitates and funds effective research, development, and education projects to assist dairy farmers in continued sound environmental management practice improvement. Priority is placed on projects which directly support dairy producers in complying with current and future environmental regulations while maintaining economic viability. CDRF’s research is informing and validating the efforts of California dairy producers and is distributed via direct outreach, CMAB, CDQAP, Dairy Cares and others, such as Western United Dairies (see their sustainability outreach here).

CDRF’s priority research areas of interest for Environmental Management are:

  • Identifying water recharge opportunities on dairies
  • Improving water use efficiency of forage crops
  • Irrigation automation for water and labor savings
  • Achieving water quality compliance on farm
  • Advanced technologies for manure treatment and/or standardization
  • Markets and technologies for exporting manure off farm
  • Methane reduction opportunities and incentives
  • Reducing enteric emissions
  • Quantifying the benefits of dairy digesters and alternative manure management practices
  • Improving soil health and biodiversity
  • Projects that address multiple environmental targets (e.g., water use, air quality, soil health, nutrient management)

Preview the current CDRF Environmental Management Projects

Social Responsibility

The U.S. dairy supply chain operates in a highly regulated environment which covers both locally produced goods as well as imported products. The food safety and security framework is in place to ensure that consumers are protected from harmful products entering the supply chain. Beyond environmental stewardship, production areas of animal care, labor welfare and antibiotic use are key areas of interest. There is a growing need for higher level documentation and continuous improvement in these areas to bolster awareness of industry implementation of best practices and maintain confidence.

California dairy producers are known for being proactive and leading the country in their efforts to continue to provide safe and nutritious foods to the local and world-wide markets. As such, CDRF funds projects that address the important risk management issues of animal care (best practices and disease management), food safety (e.g. managing product residues) and biosecurity (prevention and preparation for a biosecurity event). The emphasis within this focus area is outreach to ensure on-farm risk awareness and adoption of best practices. CDRF continues to work through CDQAP and other appropriate projects to provide local support for programs such as the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program.

Preview the current CDRF Social Responsibility Projects

Food Science, Nutrition and Health

Research into the human health impact of dairy product consumption is occurring in many institutions nationally and globally, and the nutrition related challenges and opportunities in California are generally similar to those in other developed countries. CDRF recognizes nutrition as a fast evolving science and acts as a conduit for leading health- and nutrition-related research for the California dairy industry, collaborating with other state organizations working in this area, such as the Dairy Council of California. The organization will interact with state, national and international nutrition research bodies, monitor published scientific findings and communicate key outcomes for use.

Where appropriate, CDRF seeks to bolster research interest and foster collaboration between California-based experts and national and international research bodies. CDRF prioritizes its funding in human health and nutrition to research projects with strong implications to the California dairy industry. Areas of special interest will include dairy as a source of sustainable nutrition and the health benefits of value-added dairy products. In addition, CDRF seeks to co-fund (on a minority basis) larger projects led by others that are of specific and aligned interest.

California has an important part to play in the global effort. California is home to a number of milk scientists (the most well-known are housed at the University of California, Davis) that are making groundbreaking advancements in our knowledge about the health benefits of milk.

CDRF has taken a global leadership role in the advancement, sharing and collaboration of milk science through its support and management of the International Milk Genomics Consortium (IMGC). IMGC has a base of more than 1,000 interested parties (mainly scientists) and the support of dairy industry associations from around the globe.  CDRF intends to continue its support for the IMGC as well as dedicate funding towards important health and nutrition based projects.

Preview the current CDRF Food Science, Nutrition and Health Projects

Industry Development and Educational Outreach

The success of the industry is largely dependent upon the capability of its human resources. Specific dairy education and skill sets are needed for on-farm employees, support-industry future workforce and scientific research professionals. CDRF sponsors projects that provide important skills to dairy farmers and industry-support representatives that are not otherwise available via free market channels or are key to maintain research expertise within California institutions. Projects such as the California Dairy Feed Fellowship seek to fill the lack of on-farm, in-person application that many well-educated industry employee candidates miss during their years in college. These programs screen for highly-motivated candidates whose primary interest beyond the program is obtaining meaningful industry work in the California dairy community.

Fellows have historically gained important networking contacts including technical consultants, salesmen, nutritionists and dairymen and have a solid understanding of how a feed mill works and what it takes to manufacture and market a feed premix; for dairymen, nutrition consultants will have a better understanding of dairy nutrient systems to improve recommendations to improve crop management, feed management and reduce nutrient impacts to the environment. The Fellowship program is headquartered at the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, CA.

Preview the current CDRF Industry Development and Educational Outreach Projects

Innovation and Technology

The combination of retail competition and global commodity prices places margin pressure on commodity food products. One opportunity to increase profitability is to introduce new value-added products that can command a respectable premium. In specific situations under industry’s request, CDRF will seek to support pre-competitive research and development focused on new value-added category dairy products. To accomplish this, CDRF uses directed calls for projects after discussions with subject-area experts, stakeholders including the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), relevant processors and research institutions.

Newly formed in 2020, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), the marketing order representing California dairy producers, along with industry partners and significant collaboration with CDRF, developed the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC). The CDIC will feed dairy innovation efforts for the number one dairy state with collaborations between California dairy producers, processors, and universities. The CDIC was created to further product-oriented innovation and enhance productivity for the California dairy industry.

“The ‘center’ is not a physical building or organization, but rather a cooperative effort to leverage the tremendous brain trust of our California colleges and universities as well as the California dairy industry as a whole to support our mutual goals,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB.

California is the nation’s leading milk producer. It also produces more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. The state is the second-largest producer of cheese and yogurt. California milk and dairy foods can be identified by the Real California Milk seal, which certifies they are made exclusively with sustainably produced milk from the state’s dairy farm families.

Preview the current CDRF Innovation and Technology Projects