Improving feed and nutrition for Nevada's dairy industry

Antonio Faciola is a scientist, with shiny lab equipment and vials of gooey liquid and beakers bubbling on Bunsen burners. He also spends time getting mud on his boots on farms and ranches in northern Nevada working with dairy farmers, studying dairy cattle and touring grazing lands, and he is rebuilding a dairy research program and laboratory to support a growing industry.

Dr. Antonio Faciola - animal nutritionist in the department of Ag., Nutrition, and Veterinary Science
Dr. Antonio Faciola - animal nutritionist in the department of Ag., Nutrition, and Veterinary Science.

Originally from Brazil, Assistant Professor Faciola came from Wisconsin to Nevada in June 2013 to continue his research and teach in the Agriculture, Nutrition and Veterinary Sciences Department.

"Nevada has a growing dairy industry and many challenges and opportunities," he said. "My work applies to the challenges ranchers face on a daily basis such as forages' nutritional value, diet fine-tuning, and optimizing new feed sources."

Dairy farming in Nevada is seeing a resurgence, and Faciola is working to help the industry be more efficient and profitable. His research explores new feed sources, nutritional value of plants, and the overall understanding of ruminant nutrition.

The dry climate of Nevada is quite different from his hometown of Belem in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Arid lands predominate in the American West as well as globally, making his research valuable not only to Nevadans but also to farmers and ranchers around the world.

"The research that we conduct here in Nevada and the knowledge that is produced from it can be used around the country and indeed the world to improve approaches to agriculture," Bill Payne, CABNR Dean, said. "It is especially relevant to dry areas of the world. The excellent level of science occurring within CABNR and the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station is exemplified by Antonio's work at the Main Station Field Lab; it will be key to informing and re-engaging with the dairy industry of Nevada."

There are 28 dairy farms in Nevada, including 22 in the Fallon area. Northern Nevada is expecting a fivefold to tenfold increase in milk production with the new milk plant in Fallon, and research can help the industry meet this demand and be competitive in the West. With 28,000 cows statewide producing 620 million pounds of milk per year, knowing best feeds and practices is important.

"The re-establishment of dairy research is an important step for the college," Payne said. "This is a critical component of ag production in Nevada and we must do what we can to support that industry."

Faciola's Animal Nutrition Research Laboratory is the newest and biggest lab in the department, and he's proud of it. The old dairy cattle research lab closed 10 years ago, and Faciola dusted off the usable parts and brought in new equipment and processes to bring the lab up to date with the rest of the industry.

Faciola teaches fundamental and advanced animal nutrition and is one of a dozen new faculty hired since 2013 who will help boost agriculture in Nevada, and others include two soil scientists, a forage agronomist, a plant biochemist and an Ag science instructor.

He is building the dairy program quickly. In his first year as a faculty member he has established relationships throughout the state, written important research papers, delivered lectures at scientific meetings and recruited several graduate students. In addition to several undergraduate students, he has five visiting grad students - one from Iran and four from Brazil - working with him on several research projects. They are here as part of the Science Without Borders program, sponsored by the Brazilian government.