Behind the scenes of setting up for the big show
During the 2019 edition of World Dairy Expo there were 1642 owners of dairy cattle exhibiting 2,331 head of cattle from 34 states and 7 Canadian provinces. They came for the show to appear before the eyes of a judge for but a brief few minutes.
They traveled to Madison from close by and from far away and counting travel time, were away from their home barns for a minimum of seven days to as long as 13 days. For much of that time – for some – the cattle spent lots of time in a livestock truck or trailer under the watchful eyes of an accompanying crew.
And yes, there are planned stops to milk the cows, re-shuffle the bedding and feed and water. Be assured, the animals are well taken care of – watered, fed, bedded and very comfortable.
Building the display
Chances are the stall space at Dairy Expo is being prepared while animals are in transit so there is little waiting once the cattle arrive. The barn space has been measured out, baled straw and shavings a foot deep have been built making for a comfortable and dry space for the cattle.
Seldom will a single animal or a small group of animals be housed alone in the Dairy Expo barns. Most often they will be part of a “string” of cattle overseen by the major exhibitor along with everyone helping along with perhaps a few hired employees who may be college students who came with the large group and a local employee or two.
The common arrangement was probably formed before the cattle left home where the exhibitor with one or two animals will join with a bigger group of animals – a friend or neighbor – as a “tie in” and be hauled and cared for by the crew working with the big group. Arrangements as to feed, feeding and general care will will be worked out with the owner of the single animal providing help sometime during the show.
In the case of absentee owners, and there are a good many animals owned by several of even many owners, the regular crew along with any extra help continues through Dairy Expo.
The dairy barns, in addition to cattle, are home to tents of many sizes that serve as a place for equipment, food, chairs and maybe a bed for the cattle crew. Exhibitors must apply for these by early September and the cost runs from $300 to $5,000 depending on the number of cattle in the display and size of the tent. As one exhibitor told me “that’s my home for eight days, it’s where I eat, sit, sleep and live for nine days.
City folks do attend
Although technically a “public” event, World Dairy Expo actively avoids marketing to the general consumer market – this event is all about dairy farming. But, of course, many non-farmers make their way to the event mostly “to see the cows.”
And, cattle exhibitors love to explain dairying from calves to traveling to Madison for the Dairy Expo. So if and when you go, look and ask questions but keep out of the way of those working with the cattle – it’s their job to keep the animals clean, comfortable and happy.
More than 5 days
Dairy Expo runs five days but chances are most of the people exhibiting cattle and the commercial vendors have been there for several days earlier. It’s all about the show. Enjoy.
John Oncken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-837-7406.