Why go to World Dairy Expo?


Why go to World Dairy Expo?

If you aren’t from the dairying community, you may have never heard of World Dairy Expo (WDE), but you’re truly missing out. WDE is like Christmas for those in the dairy industry; heck, planning for the next year’s expo starts the day after it’s over, if not even before. WDE is the joining and intertwining of over 77,000 dairy producers, enthusiasts, and businesses from around the globe. It’s a weeklong event in Madison, Wisconsin that promises plenty of ice cream, cheese, and fun. Everyone has a favorite reason to go to Expo, but when it comes down to it, the main reason is to form an alliance of dairy farmers. A common group that will support each other and the interest of the dairy industry as well as promote the product of their toil to consumers throughout the world.

The Competitions

Obviously, one of the biggest parts of World Dairy Expo is the cattle shows, but did you know that a plethora of other competitions exist at Expo? WDE offers a variety of competitions for visitors of all ages. There are three dairy judging competitions: 4-H, Post-Secondary, and Intercollegiate early in the week, where students get to show off their ability to place cattle and talk reasons to the judges. Reasons are the contestant’s opportunity to talk about why they placed the animals as they did. Contestants memorize a set of reasons and go into a room to present their points to a judge who gives them a score based off of the accuracy of their explanation. A forage competition is held for both corn silage and hay, allowing producers to show off their ability to make delicious and nutritious feed for their cows. A fitting contest is held to allow youth to showcase their ability to clip and style their animal’s hair. One of the contests I’d love to judge is the dairy products contest. Companies bring their dairy products to be scored, and the winning products are auctioned off.

New Technology & Innovations

Expo is home to a trade show of over 850 dairy related companies; if this doesn’t thrill you, I don’t know what will! The companies come with their products and staff to communicate with the producers. Buildings are set up with aisle upon aisle of booths that have pens, candy, and other promotional materials for you to take and look into further. The amount of cutting edge technology and new products showcased at Expo is top notch. Dairy producers can talk to sales representatives about how they could implement these products on their farms to become more efficient and allow the cows to be more comfortable. Seminars are also hosted so producers can learn more about specific topics that they can take home to become more profitable.

New Genetics

World Dairy Expo hosts six premiere cattle sales for visitors to take home new additions to their herds. With Expo being one of the top shows in the world, the cattle that sell are from some of the best bloodlines available and their pedigrees would bring excitement and marketability to any herd. Being able to find such a good looking and great pedigreed group of dairy females anywhere else would be hard to do.

Friends & Family

To me, this is one of the best parts of WDE. Getting to see friends from other states all in one place around the animals we love most is priceless. I’ve heard countless stories about friendships blossoming at Expo, which then serves as their one-week reunion each year. I know a couple who has a special place for Expo in their heart, as they got engaged their last year. Expo isn’t just about the cows and ribbons, it’s about the memories made and the time spent with friends and family.

Watch the Beauties Dance

There is nothing more exhilarating than watching the Grand Champions walk in the ring for Supreme Champion selection on Saturday. The lights are down low, and each cow is introduced and spotlighted as she is escorted into the ring like a woman going to the dance. Most people couldn’t care less about the other things to do at WDE; they would be happy enough with plopping down in the Coliseum and watching those silky cows and heifers prance on the colored shavings for hours upon end.

All in all, World Dairy Expo is much more than just a cow show. It’s where dairy farmers from around the globe come to meet and discuss the pressing issues of our industry. They get to form an alliance with others just like them. It’s their little home away from home that understands that sometimes cows just understand your problems better than people. Some people may not understand the importance of it, but to those who do it means everything.


Day 25: sharing our story


Today my parents and I went Christmas shopping, since I have the whole week off for fall break. When mom and I were in our last store of the day I looked down at my phone and realized it was 3:42! What’s the significance of that time? It takes an hour to get home from where we were and we usually begin milking at 4:30. So, I walked over to the dressing room, where mom was trying a sweater on, and told mom “hurry up, it’s 3:42, we’ve got to go!” The lady working the fitting room counter overheard this, and asked me if we’d been at the mall all day? Or why did we have to leave right then? I then responded, “we live about an hour away and we have a dairy farm.” She asked me how many cows we had, and I told her we milk about 50-60. She said so only part of those are females? I then explained that was only our milking herd and we have around 150 total head of cattle on the farm. She was so surprised that we had that many cows waiting to be milked.

She had a few other questions for me, when do they begin giving milk? Do they mind being milked? I told her that most cows have their first calf at the age of two and after calving they begin lactating. I explained that their gestation period is nine months like humans, and that the two months before they calve, is their vacation time. During those two months they go to a different pen where they are not milked and get to relax and eat all they want. To her second question I answered, no they actually seem to enjoy it, getting milked relieves them. Almost like when I person really needs to go to the bathroom, they feel so much better after they have gone. She told me thank you and get home to those cows.

I realized that I’m blessed to be able to share our story with random strangers and answer any questions they may have about our industry. I think that woman never expected that in her retail job, she would be talking about dairy cows, but it’s always good to mix it up a little bit.

Day 22: high quality feed


As I was doing chores last night, I began to think about all the feed we have stored up for this winter. Both of our silos are full of corn silage, we have a bag of silage for the heifers, not to mention the hay we have bought up. On a farm it’s important not only to have enough feed but high quality feed, to keep the animals healthy and their byproducts wholesome.

Every year it is a guessing game with the crops. Some years they are better than expected and other years they barely yield anything. This is a struggle, as a grain and dairy farmer. You want to be able to provide your animals with nutritional feeds. This year we were lucky to put up some high quality corn silage, that the cows enjoy! As well as having neighbors that have sold us nice green hay for the winter.

After some past years, and the poor quality feed they provided, I believe we are blessed to have the feed supply that we do for this winter. It’s one challenge that we have completed, therefore it’s one less problem we will have to worry about this winter.


Alfalfa hay for the milking cows



Corn silage running into the TMR mixer


Day 15: Superman


Have you ever known someone that seemed to be able to do it all? They can fix the tractors, feed the cows, treat the sick cows, and so much more, all in a timely manner? I do.

Jess and dad cow show

I have been my dad’s “mini me” for a long time. I remember being about four or five and following him around “helping him” do chores in my strawberry coat. Since then, I have learned so much from him and respect him greatly.

Dad has taken on a lot of responsibility since PawPaw passed away. He now is in charge of the dairy as well as all the farming. On our farm he is the only man, his “employees” consist of mom, his three daughters, Aunt Char and Grammy. As you can guess, he has to explain things multiple times, teach us how to drive the big equipment, and fix everything we break. Although he sometimes loses his patience, we all know that he appreciates our help.

photo 1

I know that if it wasn’t for Dad, I wouldn’t have the love for cows that I do today. He has been there helping me the entire way. From helping me with my first heifer, to teaching me how to show. He took me to my first judging contest and helped me learn what was import to look for in the animals. He continued to drive me throughout Illinois to judging competitions, and helped me to get better. Even at the college level, I still stare at a class and think what would dad do?

photo 2

He taught me at a young age how to drive tractors and trucks. I work ground or combine whenever he needs help. He has never told us girls that we couldn’t do something because we were girls and it was a boys job. I think that he has taught my sisters and me that we can do whatever we put our minds to.

He is a jack of all trades. Whether it is fixing a fence or a silage wagon, he seems to be able to do it all. I’ve never seen him give up or say that he can’t do something. He always keeps trying and comes up with innovative solutions to fix the problem. I know that we are all blessed to have dad in our lives, and blessed that he loves the dairy industry as much as he does. We all appreciate the early mornings, the late nights, and the countless hours a week that you put in for us girls.

Day 14: Knowing the facts



Today I feel lucky that I am informed of all of the actions that farmers take to ensure that production is at its peak and they are able to feed the world population. In one of my classes a teacher felt the need to show us a few videos of a certain food chain (I prefer not to give them any extra interest, therefore I will not name them). In these videos, as well as the app with a game for children to play, it is portrayed that all agriculture today is “science” and just stabbing animals with syringes to make them double in size. They also showing dairy cattle in cubes with milkers hooked up to them 24/7, this image horrified me the most.

As a dairy farmer, it is a challenge to help show consumers in the public that visuals like these are incorrect. I do NOT hook my cow up to a milker all day for all of her life. Each cow is milked twice a day for 12-15 minutes per milking. This is to help the animal with her own comfort, not just for my own profit and benefit. Also, on our farm the animals are able to walk around all day if they please. We have free choice hay and silage available to them at all times and they always have fresh water. I give them antibiotics when they are sick, just as others take their children to the doctor and give them medicine when they are sick. Our Veterinarian even knows most of our cows by name, we care about our cows just like they are family.

When we have treated a milk cow with antibiotics, we do NOT add her milk in with the other milk that will be distributed. Her milk goes straight into a bucket and then disposed of, the milker and all other equipment is then cleaned.

I feel blessed that I have grown up around livestock and farming. I am lucky to know all of the facts and that farmers have the people’s best interest in mind. I feel that now it is my job to help educate others, that haven’t had the same childhood and upbringing that I have, how the food gets from the farm to their dinner table, and that the processes which farmers do are to help bring the best product possible to the market.

Day 12: Sleeping anywhere and anyway


After a long week in Louisville at NAILE, I’m still worn out. Heading to the hotel at eleven and getting up at four aren’t all that unusual for my family though. And I started thinking about all the people who say they have trouble sleeping. In our family that isn’t an occurrence, we can sleep anytime, anywhere almost always. This week alone I can think of a few interesting places we all dosed off. The cot in the tent (with music blaring), the show ring seats, the chairs we had set up behind the cows, the truck, in a display trailer in the shopping center.

Some may not see this as a blessing, yet I do. I’m glad that our family is hard working and we therefore have catnaps throughout the day. Yes, it can be quite funny to watch mom or dad doing the “headbob” but I understand why they do it. Getting up at 4:30 everyday and having a day full of outside work to do would have this affect on anyone. I’m thankful that I can sleep and not lay awake for hours on end in bed.


Cots, I think we sleep on these more than our beds in the summer.

Day 9: Judging


Today is a big day, it’s my last time judging NAILE. This is the second time I will have judged this contest, but the first time at the University level. Last year, our team won and all four members made it in the top ten individuals.


Kaskaskia 2013 team at NAILE

Dairy judging isn’t a walk in the park. On the day of contests it’s like you are about to take an exam. It’s game day and you need to focus. It’s important to eat a good breakfast, because judging can be emotionally and physically draining. You step into the ring and normally judge about ten classes. Then, you go sit in a room with all the other contestants and memorize the notes on the four or five classes that they told you to. Going into a room and giving a one-two minute set of reasons to a person that you may know can be intimidating. It’s important to be calm, cool, and collected.

Judging is HUGE part of my life, through the good days and the bad days I still love it. It’s been a blessing that I was able to begin judging at the age of eight, and that I was able to judge at the 4-H, Two year, and University level. I am thankful for all of the friendships I have gained, the places and farms I have gotten to see, and the fun I have been able to experience being on such talented teams.