Herschleb up to the task of leading World Dairy Expo forward

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

She may be wearing a new hat as general manager, but Laura Herschleb is no stranger to country's premier dairy industry event - World Dairy Expo.

Laura Herschleb will begin serving as World Dairy Expo’s General Manager on February 28.

Herschleb is familiar with the show from the ground up: working on the floor of the Coliseum as a former member of the Badger Dairy Club to holding the position of Dairy Cattle Show manager for five years. In 2018, she took on another role as Marketing Manager, while lending her support to projects related to education initiatives, attendee services and the trade show.

Because of the roles she's held over the years, Herschleb has a keen understanding of the show, which she coins the "Super Bowl of the dairy industry" which is set to run from Oct. 2-7 on the grounds of the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

"What makes World Dairy Expo truly special, is that the latest and greatest technology of all aspects of the global dairy industry are on display, for one week of the year, right here in Madison, Wisconsin," she said. 

Organizing a show of such a large scale that's known for showcasing the world's leading dairy companies and the top industry experts, in addition to hosting some of North America's elite dairy cattle involves a great deal of input and hard work from a dedicated team.

"The most exciting part has been working more closely with the WDE team and our various committees and stakeholder groups," Herschleb says. "The excitement and passion these folks have for WDE is invigorating!"

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Stepping into the shoes of retiring General Manager Scott Bentley is a tall task, one Herschleb is up for. She is also the first woman to hold the post.

"I've really taken an eyes wide-open approach to learning and better understanding all aspects of the event this year," the Washington County native said. While there were major changes already afoot before her promotion - the schedule change and switch to digital admission passes - she says the focus has been helping the team to successfully implement the new elements.

"I'm also looking forward to outlining Expo's next five-year strategic plan this winter and seeing where leaders choose to guide the organization in the near future," she said.

Working in the dairy industry for most of her career, Herschleb knows the challenges that producers and agribusinesses have faced over the past years: the fallout of a global pandemic that tested the supply chain as well as rising input costs and inflation.

International visitors ask about products at the Bioret Agri booth at World Dairy Expo.

"Farmers are the ultimate problem-solvers. It's incredible the creativity and tenacity of farmers and folks in the dairy industry," Herschleb said. "When times get frustrating, attending World Dairy Expo can be just the break folks need to be amongst peers, learning about new solutions and building future business relationships."

Herschleb said Expo is a place where farmers can learn from each other but also where companies who specifically support the dairy industry are launching new products and introducing new services to face these challenges.

"The cross-section of the dairy industry that is showcased at Expo really makes it that one-stop event to learn and gather information," she said. "There are few other places people can go to see the latest technology, North America's finest dairy cattle, coupled with over 50 educational opportunities, youth contests and networking galore."

Learning opportunities from Knowledge Nook Sessions, industry hosted events, Tanbark Talks, virtual farm tours, dairy forage seminars and more address issues important to farmers including sustainability, climate change, efficiency and labor concerns. The addition of Expo en Español also helps spread knowledge to a broader audience. 

With its 55th show just days away, Herschleb says it is vital for the show to remain relevant to showgoers each and every year.

"We dig deep, we honor our past and look to the future, just like dairy producers and all involved in dairy and agriculture," she said. "As our industry evolves, we continue to engage our leaders and stakeholders to guide Expo into the future and evolve alongside the industry."