If you want to see more than 2,500 of the best dairy cattle in the world, attend an educational seminar or two, take a virtual farm tour, meet up with some friends or visit more than 1,600 commercial booths, then you don't want to miss World Dairy Expo Sept. 30-Oct. 4 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.
"We are considered the meeting place for the dairy industry. It's something that we're really proud of," says Mark Clarke, new general manager of World Dairy Expo. "Whether you're milking 50 or 5,000 cows, there is something for everyone this year at World Dairy Expo.
"We want you to see something or learn something that you can take home with you and help improve your own dairy operation," he adds. "Whether it's a contact, or a product or a seminar you went to, we want you to be able to learn something that will help your business."
Canadian cattle return
With the opening of the Canadian border to dairy cattle last November, Clarke says he's excited about having Canadian cattle return to the show for the first time since 2003.
"A lot of people are looking forward to it including us," Clarke says. "We're going to be broadcasting the show live on the World Wide Web."
The show can also be viewed on jumbotrons this year in the Exhibition Hall.
"We had one jumbotron in the show arena last year," he says. "This year, we're taking it to the next level. This will allow exhibitors to catch part of the show. Commercial exhibitors and dairy cattle are both very important parts of World Dairy Expo. We're trying to bring the two together."
Clarke notes that cattle numbers at Expo have risen dramatically over the past decade.
"In 1997, we had just over 1,700 head. We've increased the size of two of the structures that we put up to accommodate more cattle."
There's an incredible amount of work done behind the scenes in preparation for the show.
"We have 10 people on staff – they're all incredible," Clarke says. "They're level of professionalism is outstanding. The whole team really works together well. You can't imagine the amount of detail that goes into planning a show like this."
Mike Holschbach, president of the Expo board of directors, agrees with Clarke.
"I think there are several areas that make World Dairy Expo what it is," Holschbach says.
"No. 1 is we have an excellent staff. They are very caring, hard working, dedicated and professional. They just have a passion for their job. No. 2, the volunteerism that goes with Expo is critical. Without volunteers, Expo would not be able to run. So many people give of their time on an annual basis. No. 3, the dairy show and exhibitors see value in each other and one without the other would lessen the show and it would not be the world class event that it is."
If you're wondering how you can see the whole show in one day, you're not alone. According to Clarke, about 66% of producers spend more than two days at the show.
"If you really want to see it and take it all in, it takes more than one day to see the show. The best part is we are not whether dependent," he points out. "Most of our show is inside. So, if we have a rainy day it's not a big problem. We have tremendous facilities that lend themselves to a great show."