World Dairy Expo is held annually in Madison, Wisconsin and attracts thousands of visitors. This was my first visit to Expo, and I really didn’t know what to expect. Here are just a few things that I learned during my visit.
1. The Cow is Queen
While there are plenty of dairy products to sample and purchase (I personally would recommend some extremely spicy fried jalapeño cheddar), the Expo is really about cows and farming. If you want to decorate every inch of your home with cow art, you could purchase it all here. If you never want to leave the house again without a cow related item of clothing, we can make that happen.
2. It Really Is an International Affair
Let’s face it, that pork tenderloin sandwich isn’t really “world famous” and neither is your grandma’s bake sale entry. This place really is. Walking around, I heard people speaking Chinese, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, and other languages I couldn’t identify, plus every accent of English available. Cattle come to the show from all over North America and the exhibits and vendors are extremely international (a feed ingredient company from Malayasia, an equipment company from Italy, and plenty of multinational companies).
3. The Technology is Amazing
Want to see how a robot would milk a cow? Good news, the various companies have demonstration robots and fake cows. What about a robotic feed mixer that will feed your cows for you? I personally would like a cat version that also stops cats from waking up their sleeping owners.
4. Think You Have a Long Name?
Similar to watching a dog show, all the cows here have fancy names. No Miss Bessys or Buttercups need apply. The Reserve Grand Champion Milking Shorthorn (a dairy breed originating in England) was named Elron Megadeath Waveland-EXP-ET, which sounds like a cross between a band, a Pokémon, and a grade you’d receive at a new age school. These names allow farmers to understand who bred the cow, who her parents were, and other critical info.
5. Expecting Dirt?
Think again. The cows show on colored tanbark, with a new color used every year. The barns are immaculate and probably cleaner than my apartment. I was a little relieved to find a temporary tent barn with a dirt floor that at least seemed more like a cattle show than the rest of the Westminster Kennel Club-style stuff going on.
6. Dairy Farming is a Small World
The real reason most people come to any dairy show or expo is to shoot the breeze with fellow farmers and cow enthusiasts. People are constantly bumping into friends, acquaintances, and long-lost family members while wandering the grounds.
7. It’s Not All Fun and Games
People are here to do serious business, to research new technologies, buy new equipment to keep their cows more comfortable, and exchange ideas from farmers all around the world. I even attended a seminar about yogurt research and gut health that involved diagrams of amino acids and went slightly over my head, but was interesting to at least pretend I understood. My main takeaway was that I would have a yogurt for breakfast.