Like many other successful people in today’s dairy industry, Mike Hutjens, professor emeritus of dairy sci- ence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has fond memories of the hours he spent working in the cattle barns at World Dairy Expo while attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin– Madison back in the late 1960s.
“Expo was just getting started at the time,” Hutjens says. “I was on the dairy judging team and our coaches (Jim Crowley and Dave Dickson) were heavily involved in the launch of Expo. They felt it was important to have students involved and visible at Expo.”
Hutjens’ duties at the show involved walking the barns at night. “We’d make sure that nobody was both- ering the cattle, and we did some clean-up work. We were also responsible for monitoring for fires (because of the straw bedding) and making sure there weren’t any problems with alcohol or smoking in the barns.”
Fifty years later, Hutjens can’t remember exactly how much he was paid for the work. “We’d be there
from 10 p.m. to about 6 a.m.” he says. “My guess is that we got somewhere around $10 to $20 per night. As a graduate student with a yearly stipend of $2,500, this was a significant source of added income.”
Just as important as the income to Hutjens were the experiences and knowledge he acquired in the barns. “It was amazing to see and study the impressive world champion cattle,” he says. “Coming from a grade Holstein farm near Green Bay, Wis., it was like being at the Miss America contest of cows. We also met some world-class dairy farmers and breeders who appreci- ated our effort and commitment.”
The enthusiasm for the dairy industry that Hutjens developed while working the barns stayed with him throughout his long career as a university-level dairy science educator. “A love of quality dairy cattle was instilled in me along with an appreciation for the huge effort, cost and time that owners invest in showing dairy cattle,” he says. “It was a great experience all the way around.”