World Dairy Expo is home to the planet's premier, dairy-specific trade show. Here's what a few Expo goers had to say about what they saw inside the show.
Bill Slade, Olin, N.C.
Cow comfort was at the forefront of Bill Slade’s thinking when he visited the Trade Show in 2018. Bill, the herd and reproductive manager at 1,250-cow Rocky Creek Dairy in Olin, N.C., figures he had been to Expo 15 or 16 times over the years. Last year’s trip marked his first visit to the Madison event in four years.
In the Trade Show, Bill made it a point to visit the booths of several companies marketing bendable freestall dividers. He also spent a good deal of time talking with company reps about sand bedding.
“We’re always looking for anything that will make our cows more comfortable,” he says. “A comfortable cow is a happy cow who makes us money.”
Bill sees the Trade Show as a good starting point to begin researching all kinds of products and services.
“It’s helpful to come here and get an idea of things we might want to take a closer look at over time. All of the people working in the booths here know where their products are being used out in the countryside. They’ll give you suggestions on where to go to talk to other producers who are already using their products. Then, you can go out and see for yourself how these products are working in the real world. There’s nothing like personal contact.”
Johanna Knorr, Morris, Minn.
“Anything and everything having to do with calves,” was the focal point for Johanna Knorr as she traversed the WDE Trade Show in 2018. Johanna is a calf team leader at a 7,000-head calf ranch owned by Riverview LLP, a diversified (beef, dairy and crops) agribusiness company based in Morris, Minn. “I’m always on the lookout for things that will simplify our jobs and make us more efficient,” she says.
Along those lines, Knorr used her time at the Trade Show to visit company exhibits showcasing calf-housing structures, pharmaceutical products and colostrum handling products. This past year, she was especially interested in a colostrum management system she found. The system is centered around metallic bags used to collect fresh colostrum. “It eliminates a couple of steps in the collecting and feeding process,” says Knorr. “And that reduces the chance of contamination.”
Having the opportunity to interact with company reps from a variety of geographical areas is a major benefit of attending the Trade Show, Johanna adds. “You’re not hearing just from one local rep about how to get the most out of a particular product,” she says. “Instead, you can talk to several people from different places and learn what their customers are doing. You end up with different perspectives.”
Stuart Modra, Gunbower, Australia
When Australian dairy producer Stuart Modra started making arrangements for his first-ever visit to World Dairy Expo last year, attending the Trade Show wasn’t a high priority. “I came mostly to see the cows,” says Stuart. He and his wife, Clare, who also made the trip to Madison, milk 300 Registered Holsteins on a pasture-based dairy near the town of Gunbower in southern Australia.
Once he started touring the Trade Show exhibits, though, Stuart found plenty to hold his interest. Along with visiting the displays of hay marketing organizations like the National Hay Association and Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association to learn more about how U.S. dairy producers are constructing their feed rations, he checked out the latest innovations with stops at several booths of companies marketing heat detection systems. He also touched base with sales reps and technical experts at genetics companies’ exhibits to gather information about current industry trends.
“We’re all basically using the same genetics these days,” says Stuart. “Visiting the booths and talking face to face with the company people was a good way for us to see if we’re going in the right direction.”
Having the chance to connect with representatives from several companies marketing large cooling fans for dairy housing facilities was a major highlight for Stuart. He’s thinking about building a large open shed to house cows during the hot summer months (December through February in Australia). Currently, the herd lives outside on paddocks year-round.
“We’ll have six to eight weeks every summer where the temperatures are in excess of 35 to 45 degrees Celsius,” Stuart notes. “And for every degree over 35, we’re losing roughly one liter of milk per cow. Talking to the people from the different companies gave us some ideas on how we might adapt some of these fans to fit our situation and what we’re looking to build going forward.”
Stuart’s bottom line on the Trade Show: “It’s very impressive. There are so many companies here. If you’re looking for just about anything connected to dairy farming, you’ll likely find it at this show.”
Carrie Warmka, Fox Lake, Wis.
As a nutritionist for an agricultural cooperative, making the annual trip to the WDE Trade Show is a real no-brainer for Carrie Warmka, Fox Lake, Wis. “This is the place to be if you’re looking for the latest and best in the dairy business,” says Carrie. Along with her day job, Carrie helps out with a variety of chores on nights and weekend at a 500-cow dairy farm owned and managed by her parents, Les and Laura, and her older brother, Eric.
With milk prices depressed last year, Carrie was zeroed in on researching products that could help her customers do a better job of managing their operations more efficiently. She spent a good deal of her Trade Show time checking out nutrition management software programs offered by a half-dozen companies.
“I was able to learn more about several good programs that will help customers do a better job of reducing feed refusals and managing their feed inventories,” says Carrie. “That’s important whether milk prices are up or down.”
Making efficient use of time is a major plus of attending the Trade Show. “If you’re looking for a particular product, you’ll often see several companies offering their version of it,” she notes. “You can gather all kinds of information and sit down and do your comparisons right on the spot. You don’t have to spend a lot of time doing searches on the internet or waiting for sales people to stop by the farm. Being here sure beats playing a lot of phone tag.”
Lynn DeForest, Leslie, Mich.
Having the chance to get an up close look at several bale wrappers was a highlight of attending the 2018 WDE Trade Show for 77-year old Lynn DeForest of Leslie, Mich. “I was able to compare a couple different pieces of equipment and do some pricing,” says Lynn, who made his first trip to Expo last year.
Baleage is a mainstay of the feeding program on the family’s 40-cow, pasture based dairy currently managed by Lynn’s son, Greg. “(Baleage) gives us a lot of flexibility in dealing with the weather,” Lynn explains. “That’s always an issue in our part of the country. Up to this point, we’ve been hiring a neighbor to do the wrapping for us. But we’ve been wondering if we might be better off taking the plunge and doing it ourselves.”
Plenty of other exhibits caught Lynn’s attention as he worked his way through the show. “I spent the better part of one day just going to the different booths, and I managed to fill up four bags with flyers, pamphlets and other materials,” he says. “Things are changing so fast in the dairy business these days. It can be hard to keep up with it all. When you come to a show like this, you get a pretty good idea of what’s going on throughout the industry in a short period of time. It’s a pretty amazing event.”
Tom Walker, Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Farming near Wisconsin Dells, Wis., located just an hour’s drive north of Madison, makes it relatively easy for dairy producer Tom Walker to spend at least one day each year attending World Dairy Expo.
“It’s a great place to come and see what the future holds for the dairy industry,” says Tom. “Walking around here always sparks a lot of ideas and I always have plenty to think about when I get back home.”
Tom is part of a family management team which also includes his brothers John and Tim. Along with milking 100 Registered Holsteins, the Walkers farm 750 acres.
Exhibits featuring automated milking systems and other robotic technology were the big Trade Show draw for Tom in 2018. Concerns about the availability and cost of labor play a major role in explaining his interest.
“As producers of a commodity, we’re seeing margins getting slimmer and slimmer all the time,” he says. “The ability to pay help what they’re demanding is a struggle in any business, including dairying, and it will continue to be a struggle. So robots are definitely on our radar. Right now, we’re still gathering information that will help us make a good decision. Whether or not robots will eventually be part of our operation, time will tell.”