The American Dairy Science Association was founded on July 17, 1906, as the National Association of Dairy Instructors and Investigators in Urbana, Illinois, with 19 charter members. In 1908, the organization's name was changed to the Official Dairy Instructor's Association. The next name change was made in 1916 to the American Dairy Science Association, which has stood for over 100 years.
ADSA's first "annual" meeting was held in 1906 at the University of Illinois, while the Graduate School of Agriculture was in session, and included the heads of dairy departments and dairy investigators. Leaders from these groups saw a need for an association and an annual meeting to help in the development of dairy training due to a lack of scientific knowledge, suitable textbooks, and qualified instructors. At the time, specific training in dairy products and dairy manufacturing was not available. This first meeting, and those that followed in the early years of the association's life, provided an opportunity to discuss and help develop separate dairy curricula in state universities. Through these early meetings, the association became a leader in the development of score cards, standards for products, rules for dairy cattle judging contests, testing and identification of dairy cows, instruction and research, and even in dairy extension.
ADSA held annual meetings on college campuses from 1927 to 1997, with a couple of meetings at convention centers in the 1990s. Beginning in 1998, annual meetings have been held at convention centers. In 1978, ADSA and the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) met together for the first time in East Lansing, Michigan. From 1998 through 2016, ADSA and ASAS met jointly every year, except in 1999, when they held separate meetings.
The Journal of Dairy Science (JDS) was established in 1917, and in 2017 published its 100th volume. JDS went from six issues a year to a monthly publication in 1934. JDS continues to be ranked among the top five journals in the agriculture, dairy and animal science category.
Membership in ADSA has grown from the original 19 charter members to 4,700 in 2017. This number includes institutions and individual members as follows: professional, sustaining (corporate), post-doctoral students, graduate students, undergraduate students, and life members. ADSA has three divisions: Dairy Foods, Production, and the Student Affiliate Division (SAD).
The ADSA established a Foundation in 1990 under the leadership of Robert L. Sellars, Past President of ADSA. The Borden Co. provided the seed money for the Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to acquire and disseminate scientific knowledge and information and enhance educational programs of the ADSA and the dairy industry as a whole. In its first year of operation, the Foundation sponsored lectures, symposia and the opening session speakers. Subsequent resource development efforts have partially or fully funded the Discover Conferences, the Foundation Scholar awards, the SAD Quiz Bowl, and the Genevieve Christen Distinguished Undergraduate Student Award.