The halls and barns are empty
The 55th World Dairy Expo has come and gone and it appears everyone is happy about the attendance in both people and cattle numbers. The official crowd numbers were not available at this writing and I only attended on Tuesday, Oct. 4 and that one day was crowded with walkers throughout the Exposition Center. Of course, that was also FFA day but many schools were leaving in early afternoon but crowds seemed to remain.
“Hi John,” the farmer approaching me called out as I entered the Exhibition Hall. “You probably don't remember me but we first met at the Carousel Holstein sale, maybe 10n years ago,” he said. “I think this is one of the biggest Dairy Expo crowds I've seen.”
His name was Norm Utpedel and he milks 175 cows near Huntley, Illinois, a former heavy dairy area, but Norm admitted he was about the only dairy still operating. “Yes I came to Dairy Expo to see new things especially this year to find a silage bag unloader that works better than my tractor end loader,” he says. “I haven't found that yet, but will continue looking.”
That's what World Dairy Expo is about: farmers looking for new technology; asking questions about older products and services; meeting old friends and making new ones.
The same can be said about the commercial exhibitors who spend big dollars, lots of time and much energy to attend this event.
“I can get an idea of the emotions of farmers, what are their needs and can we fill them,” one exhibitor explained. It's also the beginning of a selling time as dairy producers get information about a product, take the information back to the farm, discuss it with the family and perhaps employees and make a buying decision.
If it's a “let's go ahead with a purchase decision", chances are they will contact the local dealer/distributer and complete the transaction. The success of the local dealer depends on the ability to provide full information on how to use the new product/service and to insure any needed future services are filled.
A good Move
The move by Dairy Expo officials to shorten the commercial exhibit to four days and ending on Friday was a great one. Over the years I've listened to the complaints of commercial exhibitors of having employees working Saturday and not getting home until late Sunday or Monday thus ruining a weekend for the employee (and perhaps extra payroll expenses for the company.)
Does anyone remember Dairy Expo running through Sunday? I do and the complaints were even louder especially because so few people attended. The Saturday ending came years ago and city folks didn't attend even then. (When will we ever learn that city folks seldom attend farming centered events?)
I did stop for a dish of ice cream again provided by GEA and served by local FFA students and, of course, it was great as always. I also remember the early days of the ice cream stand: BouMatic was the sponsor and the price was 25 cents, the price today was $3.00 a dish. Fortunately, there always seem to be free GEA tickets floating around. In any case, it is a great stop for the Expo Center walkers.
I am a bit concerned about the future of World Dairy Expo in Madison. It seems that some Dane County officials see the future as having a hotel, restaurants, apartments and other business construction on the site in order to draw more convention/business meetings.
Bad idea! Parking is a problem every year for Dairy Expo, Midwest Horse Fair and a host of other ag related events. Cows and commercial businesses often don't get along. Worst of all, converting the dairy atmosphere into a commercial business park during Dairy Expo would change the whole event for the worse.
I suspect the biggest of Dairy Expo's worries will center on the potential decline in visitor numbers as farm numbers shrink.
We hope for another 55 years of World Dairy Expo.
John Oncken is at email@example.com