Alejandro Castillo has been appointed the dairy farm advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension in Merced County.

Born in Santa Fe, Argentina, Castillo was raised in the city but intrigued from an early age by his grandmother's farm. When he earned a bachelor's degree, his agricultural engineering studies focused on dairy operations. Castillo earned a master's degree in animal science at the University of Chile in Santiago and a doctorate degree in dairy cow nutrition at the University of Reading, United Kingdom.

Most recently, Castillo conducted research and extension programs for the National Institute of Agricultural Technology in Santa Fe, Argentina. Much of Castillo's research, including his doctoral thesis, has dealt with the manipulation of dairy cow diet to reduce the amount of nitrogen in manure. In 2000 and 2001, he and his colleagues published five journal articles on dairy nutrition and nitrogen utilization, including “A review of efficiency of nitrogen utilization of dairy cows and its relationship with environmental pollution” in the Journal of Animal and Feed Sciences.

Dairy waste management crucial issue

In California, the No. 1 dairy producer in the nation, dairy waste management is a crucial issue. Dairy advisers and specialists are working with farmers throughout the San Joaquin Valley to prevent nitrogen contamination of groundwater by lining wastewater lagoons, metering wastewater onto croplands and other strategies.

Castillo said he plans to begin his new job in Merced County by seeking funding to continue research on the relationship of dairy cow nutrition and environmental concerns.

“I will work together with other dairy advisers to adjust and balance dairy cows' diets using software that was developed in the United States,” Castillo said.

In addition, Castillo will conduct on-farm applied research that addresses other issues of concern to the dairy industry and disseminate information to Merced County's dairy operators, who manage about 200,000 cows, about 13 percent of the state's dairy industry. Castillo will provide one-on-one consultation with dairy operators and managers in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Castillo may be reached at his Merced office, 2145 West Wardrobe Avenue, (209) 385-7403, arcastillo@ucdavis.edu.