|Standing-room-only crowds attend the five breed sales held during World Dairy Expo week. More than 150 lots of the world’s top dairy genetics will be for sale this year, Sept. 28-Oct. 2.
Anyone in the market for the very finest in dairy cattle genetics can’t help but get a kind of "kid in the candy store" feeling while attending World Dairy Expo.
Along with providing opportunities to interact with representatives of the world’s leading genetics companies and meet face–to–face with North America’s leading breeders competing in the cattle shows, Expo is host to five top-flight breed sales throughout the week.
Cattle sales were instrumental in getting World Dairy Expo started more than four decades ago. In the late 1960s, a group of dairy cattle breeders agreed to consign top-quality calves and heifers to a series of special sales with the idea that the proceeds would be used to fund a new event known as the World Food Exposition. That event eventually became World Dairy Expo.
Oconomowoc, Wis., Holstein breeder Arden Morris was one of the original consignors to those early sales. Today, his son, Tom Morris, manages the World Classic Holstein sale, held on the floor of the Coliseum on Friday night during Expo week.
"It was a very big commitment for those people to make," says Morris, owner of Tom Morris Ltd. in Amery, Wis. "Nobody really knew if this kind of event would catch on. But people were willing to put up some of their best cattle to get things going. It showed how much faith they had in a dream."
Morris, who has been managing the World Classic since 1989, has fond memories of working the early sales while attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In those days, cattle coming to the show from California and other Western states would arrive in Madison by train. "There was a spur line that ran to where the Sheraton Hotel now sits," he explains. "We’d lead the cattle off the trains and then walk them over to the barns at the Dane County Fairgrounds [now the Alliant Energy Center]."
Morris says the sheer crowd size of the World Classic (5,000 to 6,000 people annually) makes it unique among the Holstein sales he manages throughout the year. "It’s the largest crowd for any dairy sale in the world," he says. "It’s just a great, great sale."
The international design of the World Classic adds to the uniqueness. Roughly 20% to 25% of the live animals and embryos sold at the Classic each year are purchased by international buyers. Last year’s top-selling lot—first choice of two September 2009 Goldwyn or Sanchez daughters from 2009 Expo Supreme Champion EX-95 Harvue Roy Frosty—was purchased for $95,000 by a syndicate from Mexico. Overall, buyers from five countries spent an average of $19,814 on 42 lots at last year’s sale.
Because the Classic generates so much interest, Morris says, competition to get an animal placed in the sale is keen. He reviews 150 to 200 pedigrees each year to make his selections on which animals to include. "Everybody wants in," he says. "They want to showcase their animals in front of a crowd like this. They have an opportunity to get residual sales when they walk an animal across the stage. It can generate a lot of interest in a cow family."
Much like Morris, Norm Magnussen, owner of Brown Swiss Sale Service LLC in Lake Mills, Wis., can trace his family’s involvement in World Dairy Expo back to the earliest days of the event. Along with being one of the consigners to the initial Expo fundraising sales, his dad, Norman E. Magnussen, was on the Expo board of directors and managed the World Premier Brown Swiss Sale held during Expo.
"It was a new concept back then," Magnussen says. He’s managed the World Premier Sale, held on Thursday afternoon in the Sale Pavilion, since 2005. For five years prior to that, he co-managed the sale with the National Brown Swiss Association.
For the 1969 fundraising sale, Magnussen recalls, his dad convinced an Oregon breeder to donate a calf. "They packed her up in a crate and put her on an airplane to bring her to Madison," he says. "It created quite a splash in the local newspapers."
The calf, Arbor Rose Chat Expo, was purchased by the American Exchange Bank in Madison. The Magnussens kept the animal at their farm for the next year and a half. "When there was a local promotion, we’d load the calf into a camper that had a drop-down door in the back and a calf pen inside," Magnussen says. "I was about 12 years old. It was my job to clip and wash the calf to get her ready each time. It was a way to promote Expo and also get the bank some publicity for taking part in the sale."
The symbiotic relationship between Expo and breed sales continues to this day. "Because of the different breed shows going on during Expo, some of the most elite dairy genetics, from the most recognized cow families in the world, are on the Expo grounds at the same time the sales are going on," Magnussen says. "To capture the attention of buyers in this competitive environment, the cattle offered in the sales have to be very, very good."
Last year, the Premier Sale featured 33 lots, selling for an average of $4,064. The high-selling lot was Brothers Three HP Whip H-ET, purchased by a buyer from Lake Mills, Wis., for $8,100.
This year’s sales promise to continue the tradition of greatness. Golden opportunities await buyers and sellers in 2010, with more than 150 lots of elite dairy genetics offered during the week of World Dairy Expo.
World Dairy Expo 2010 Cattle Show Schedule
Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. (Sale Pavilion) Manager—Dan Bauer Jersey Marketing Service
Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. (Sale Pavilion) Manager—Becky Payne Ayrshire Breeders Association
Thursday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. (Sale Pavilion) Manager—Norman Magnussen Brown Swiss Sale Service LLC
Thursday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. (Sale Pavilion) Manager—Seth Johnson American Guernsey Association
Friday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. (Coliseum Floor) Manager—Tom Morris Tom Morris Ltd.