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World Dairy Expo aims to help usher industry into ‘The Next Fron­tier’


Katie Riley of Madison checked out the stuffed cow toys at the 2017 World Dairy Expo in Madison.

The past year has been stressful for those working in the dairy industry. That’s why World Dairy Expo staff are pulling out all the stops to make this year’s show, set Oct. 2-6 in Madison, especially enjoyable for the estimated 70,000 attendees, exhibitors and vendors from 100 countries.

“We need a lift; we all do,” said World Dairy Expo General Manager Scott Bentley. “We really want to extend our hands to the industry and to the attendees of World Dairy Expo to be hospitable, to have a place to relax, to be social. We want to be the greatest host possible for this wonderful, global event.”

Bentley said organizers plan to include some new and improved hospitality offerings designed to enhance the Expo experience and give people several reasons to be there, whether it’s to do business or to socialize.

“We’re not here to dwell on the doom and gloom,” he said, “and we don’t want to be too chipper and rosy, but if people come and conduct business, we will make every possible consideration for that.”

Expo will reintroduce its once-popular railbird dairy cattle judging contest. Show attendees can participate via text on-site or remotely. There will be one railbird contest in a milking cow class within each breed show. Also new this year is a showmanship judges clinic for current and prospective judges, to be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, on the Coliseum floor. The clinic is designed to ensure that judges are up-to-date on changes in the showmanship competition.

Luggage check will be available in the east lobby for people who need to store bags before or after a flight. Some people come straight to Expo from the airport, Bentley said. Others need somewhere to leave their items after checking out of their hotel.

The Tanback, a social and pub-style dining area unveiled in 2017, will be doubled in size this year, with expanded meal-service hours. Improvements also have been made to the trade center, according to Bentley. A round, arcum-style tent with full glass walls on the west side will offer better visibility both in and out of the structure. Fans will assist with temperature control and air flow.

This year’s trade show will include several new and first-time exhibitors, and there continues to be a waiting list to get in. Some existing, larger exhibitors will get more space this year in an effort to accommodate the growing size of equipment and products.

“The ground is constantly shifting,” he said. “We worked really hard to give some existing commercial exhibitors larger footprints, which they’ve been asking for for a number of years.”

As in past years, many exhibitors plan to launch new products or other offerings during World Dairy Expo week, he said. “Organizations and companies time product launches and unveilings to coincide with major trade shows, and World Dairy Expo is at the top of that list.”

This year’s Expo theme, “The Next Frontier,” featuring Southwest-style decor including red rocks and cacti, seems particularly fitting in light of the ongoing evolution of the dairy industry, both in terms of technology and genetic improvements, as well as “the way it fits together,” Bentley said.

“The industry is continuing to undergo changes. That’s always been the case, but the pace is maintaining, if not accelerating,” he said. “It’s on the minds of many folks.”

Bentley said it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect Expo attendance to drop off a bit this year in light of low milk prices, but as of mid-September, cattle show entries were precisely on pace with 2017 and the trade show was sold out.

“We anticipate the competitions that will be held … will be the same incredibly high quality they’ve always been,” he said. “We will do everything we can do ensure we’ve set the table to have a great turnout.”

Bentley said it remains to be seen how the recent heavy flooding in southern Wisconsin might impact Expo attendance. The floods came just as corn silage harvest kicked off across the Upper Midwest, and the delay could force some area farmers to stay home. Weather often plays a role in attendance by those within about a 100- to 200-mile radius of the grounds, he said.

“If they can get their corn silage harvest in and check that box, they can go to World Dairy Expo and still manage their home operation,” he said.

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