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Lessons learned at Expo

00:00AM Oct 05, 2008
By Jim Dickrell

Visitors came to learn about new products, new genetics, this year whether Canadian cattle would make it across the border, and how dairy producers from across the globe are faring. 
After attending some 60 presentations, educational seminars and virtual farm tours, California editor Cathy Merlo and I learned a lot. In fact, will be sharing what we learned at this year's Expo for months to come both at and in the pages of Dairy Today magazine.

Here's a few quick lessons I learned this week:

Technology can be applied in amazing ways.

I stopped by the Pioneer Hi-Bred booth on Thursday to visit with my old college prof, Bill Mahanna, who is now Global Nutrition Science Manager for the company. Bill's an amazing guy, always looking for new ways to do old things better.

His latest gadget is using infrared cameras to look for feed temperature differences on bunker silos and drive-over piles. Just a quick scan over the Expo crowd demonstrated how the camera worked, showing blue, yellow and red images indicating different temperature readings. 
He then showed me photos of bunkers. And again, the different colors showed up. Blue deep in the pile was common where packing was done well. But yellow and red colors showed up often at the top and sides of the pile, where packing was less than optimal and air was able to penetrate. The air feeds aerobic bacteria, which quickly heats up and destroys haylage and corn silage that is so dear this year.

The cameras are $10,000 each, so you might hesitate on buying one. We'll carry a story later this year that shows the affects. It will be an effective teaching tool for your packing and covering crew, and for your feeders as they pull forage off the face of the piles each day. 

Learning occurs, even when you're not quite ready.

I attended Semex's virtual farm tour Saturday of its Gencor sire facility in Guelp, Ontario. The tour's star is Comestar Lheros, Canada's only Excellent-97 sire, and only one of nine Semex bulls that have sold more than a million units of semen.

The virtual tour takes visitors through the facility's tight security procedures right into the bull barn, the collection area and on through the semen freezing process. It is an especially eye-opening experience for many of World Dairy Expo's young visitors, many of whom have never visited an A.I. bull stud, much less see a bull being collected.
I happened to be sitting next to 5-year-old Lohan Sieber. I've known his dad, Martin, for years. Martin had been with the National Association of Animal Breeders for many years. He is now a consultant for Land O'Lake, working in dairy development for small farms (one to three cows) in the Philippines. He came to Expo with Lohan to introduce him to the dairy industry.
Little Lohan got an eyeful at the Semex tour. Don't get me wrong. The video is tastefully done and G-rated. But when one very large animals mounts the back of another very large animal, it's bound to raise questions in a 5-year-old's mind. When Lohan whispered to his dad, "What are they doing, daddy?” I was glad Martin was that dad and he got to explain it. (I didn't hear him exactly, but Martin muttered something like: "Be quiet now. I'll tell you later.”)

Learning expands your understanding of a new world.

I stepped out of the Coliseum Saturday morning after visiting a few booths and watching a bit of the Holstein show. As I headed toward the Exhibit Hall, two of Dane County's maintenance employees motioned me over. Why they picked me, I'll never know.

But the woman leaned in even closer, and pointed to a 3-year old cow heading to the show ring: "What is that large tan bag between that cow's legs. Does that mean she is pregnant and about to give birth?”
I was taken aback for a second, trying to figure how I was going to explain that large tan bag in a politically correct way. My reply: "Well, that's actually the cow's mammary system. It's where she produces the milk. And unlike women, who have two breasts up on their chests, cows have four breasts all packed tightly together at the back of their bodies.”
"That is very interesting. I always wondered about that. And now I know. Thank you,” she said as she touched my arm in appreciation. Knowledge shared; understanding gained-I hope.

So another Expo is history. The statistics are again amazing:

  • 68,317 attendees, with 2,884 international guests from 84 countries.
  • Seven breeds crossed the tan bark, with a total 2,657 of head of cattle. There were 890 cattle exhibitors from 37 states and 7 Canadian provinces.
  • Thrulane Jame Rose, EX-97, from Quebec, Canada, was named World Dairy Expo's Supreme Champion.
  • Five sales, of 158 head totaling $1.7 million , were held. Top seller was Comestar Lautalia Goldwyn, which sold for $97,000 at the World Classic 2008 Holstein Sale Friday evening.
  • Commercial exhibitors totaled 724 companies from 23 countries.
  • Next year's theme: Legendary. See you September 29 through October 3.

You won't want to miss it: There are always new things to learn!!

Jim Dickrell is the editor of Dairy Today. You can reach him by e-mail at