Five days at Expo yield year-round benefits
In the narrowest sense, World Dairy Expo is a five-day event, running from Tuesday through Saturday. But many of the dairy cattle exhibitors taking part in the show will tell you that the benefits of participating in Expo extend far beyond the actual show dates and play a major role in how they manage the various aspects of their businesses, day in and day out.
Attending and competing at Expo each fall sets the tone for a genetics marketing program and commercial dairy operation throughout the entire year at Milk Source Genetics and Dairy Farms in Kaukanna, Wis., according to co-owner Jim Ostrom.
He and his partners manage nearly 20,000 cows on three commercial dairies in eastern Wisconsin. They also manage Calf Source, an 8,500–dairy calf farm near Greenleaf, Wis. Five years ago, they launched Milk Source Genetics, a high-end dairy genetics business featuring 50 show-quality dairy cattle selected from throughout the U.S. and Canada.
"This is where the world comes to see the very best in dairy cattle genetics," Ostrom says. "When you compete here, you’re competing at the very highest level. The breeders always bring their A-game.
"Maintaining a presence and being successful here is the single best way to gain credibility on the world stage of dairy cattle genetics," he adds.
Having the opportunity to network and develop business relationships with other topflight breeders is a major part of the Expo experience, according to Ostrom. Spending a week around the industry’s best and brightest, he says, reaffirms just how unique dairy cattle are and how much care they require.
"We believe that one of the reasons we’ve been successful—both with our commercial dairies and our high-end genetics business—is that we are a cow-centric organization," he says. "We operate with the idea that all we do hinges on understanding the cows and just how unique they are.
"We’re in this business because we love cows. We strive to give each and every one of our cows Expo-quality care year-round."
|"There’s nothing like seeing bull daughters up close and in person," says George Kasbergen, an Illinois dairyman.
Illinois dairy producer George Kasbergen also views networking opportunities as a major benefit of attending World Dairy Expo. "It’s the best way I know of to keep in touch with what’s going on in the industry," says Kasbergen, who milks 3,500 cows, including 120 registered Holsteins, at Stone Ridge Dairy near Champaign, Ill.
Kasbergen brings three or four animals to Expo each year. At the show, he houses his exhibit animals with the string of Mike and Julie Duckett of Rudolph, Wis., who are part of the ownership team for two-time Expo Supreme Champion Harvue Roy Frosty.
"They are great people who know this side of the dairy business inside and out," Kasbergen says. "I’ve learned a lot from them about show cattle and what it takes to get animals ready for a show. Every day I’m here, I’m learning something new."
On the commercial side of his business, time spent at Expo can pay off in a variety of ways. "We’re always trying to improve the genetics of our commercial herd," Kasbergen says. "Here we can get a firsthand look at the daughters out of many of the top bulls. You can look at pictures of animals in the stud books and sales brochures, but there’s nothing like seeing them up close and in person."
Attending Expo’s commercial trade show is a great way to pick up ideas for improving dairy facilities and management practices. "There’s something new and different every year," Kasbergen says. "If you want information about cross-ventilated barns, you can find it here. If you want to learn about robotic milking systems, there are people here who can fill you in on what you need to know. Pick a topic related to the dairy business, and you’ll be able to find out about it here."
There’s a social component to attending Expo as well. "This is an outing that I look forward to all year long," Kasbergen says. "You meet so many great people here. I especially love associating with people from other countries and getting their perspective on the dairy business."
Kasbergen’s conclusion: "I just love looking at awesome cows. And what better place to do that than at the world’s biggest dairy show?"
Trucking a load of a dozen prized dairy animals for 45 hours to get them from Tillamook, Ore., to Madison, Wis., each year is well worth it when the final destination is the Showring at World Dairy Expo, says Cathy Coppini of Jo-Dee Swiss Farms and Bobcat Holsteins.
|"If we hadn’t started coming to Expo, nobody would have ever heard of Jo-Dee Swiss Farms," says Cathy Coppini, center, shown with son Kenny and daughter Jodi.
"We used to go to several shows, mostly in the western U.S.," she says. "But that gets pretty expensive. Several years ago, we decided to save up our money all year and make Expo our only show. This is the one that really matters in the dairy business."
Coppini is part of a management team that includes her husband, daughter and son. They milk 400 Holsteins and 70 Brown Swiss cows. Typically, they exhibit a dozen animals, mostly Brown Swiss, at Expo.
Visibility is the major draw of Expo for the family. "We’re tucked away in kind of a remote location," Coppini says. "If we hadn’t started coming to Expo, nobody would have ever heard of Jo-Dee Swiss Farms in Tillamook, Ore."
A major breakthrough for the family came in 2007 when Valligrove Jetway Nora, co-owned by Jodi, captured Grand Champion Female honors in the Central National Brown Swiss Show at Expo. "It put us on the map," Coppini says. "Now people recognize that we breed good cows. We generate a lot of sales because of our presence at this show."
Interacting with, and learning from, other breeders is another plus of exhibiting at Expo, according to Coppini. "Everybody does things a little differently," she says.
"At Expo, we get a chance to get together with all the friends we’ve made here over the years and share ideas. We get to see what bulls other people are using on different cows. It keeps us moving forward in the dairy business," she adds.