Dairy Spotlight: Michael J. VandeHaar

Professor, Department of Animal Science

Mike VandeHaar holding a calf.

If you graduated from MSU Animal Science in the past 30 years, you probably had Mike VandeHaar (Dr. V) as your nutrition teacher. Mike has been a professor of dairy nutrition at MSU since 1988 and has taught ANS 313 Animal Nutrition to 4430 students so far. For most of those years, the class was required of all ANS majors and often for entrance into vet school. Even if you didn’t take his class, chances are that your nutritionist or veterinarian did!

Mike grew up on a dairy farm near Pella, Iowa, and attended Dordt College. He later completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Iowa State University. Mike’s position is 65% research and 35% teaching. He started his career researching dry cow and heifer nutrition and was the lead author of the Spartan Dairy 2 and 3 computer programs.

While he has worked on many different projects, feed efficiency has been his focus. For the past 13 years, he has led a group of US researchers to develop genomic tools to improve feed efficiency. This work led to the inclusion of a new trait “Feed Saved” in the US Net Merit Index. In response to the needs of the dairy industry, his group now examines the genetics of methane emissions. Other projects include studies on protein efficiency and on the value of high inclusions of byproduct feeds in cows, and studies to improve the health of milk-fed calves. Mike recently served on the National Academy committee to update the Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle, the guidebook for dairy nutritionists. He serves as the Vice President and President-elect of the American Dairy Science Association.

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