With the World Dairy Expo just a month away, I spent some time with the folks at World Dairy Expo to see what would be happening with this year’s 40th anniversary show. In particular, I was able to ask Tom McKittrick, the expo’s general manager, a few questions about himself and what we can expect this year. The following is a summary of the questions I posed to him.
1. How did you get started in the dairy industry?
4-H and FFA involvement were a big part of my growing-up years on a registered Guernsey dairy farm in southwestern Wisconsin. After obtaining an agricultural degree from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, I spent three years as the dairy youth specialist with the Dairy Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That was followed by two years as a fundraiser for the national FFA organization.
2. How did you get involved with World Dairy Expo?
While growing up, we attended World Dairy Expo almost every year; we exhibited an animal once. I participated in the National Intercollegiate Judging Contest, and while on staff at UW-Madison, I was the World Dairy Expo Showmanship Contest Superintendent.
While with the national FFA organization, I was a commercial exhibitor. Therefore, when applications were being accepted for the position of general manager, it was a pretty exciting opportunity. Eighteen years later, I still find it to be an exciting and rewarding opportunity.
3. What is World Dairy Expo?
World Dairy Expo is a celebration of the dairy industry. It is truly where the international dairy industry meets. About 65,000 people attend annually, including 2,500 international visitors from 75 countries.
The event includes the largest strictly dairy-focused trade show in the world. Over 650 companies from over 20 countries present the latest in dairy technology, equipment, products, information and resources. There is the finest dairy cattle show in the world with over 2,000 head of cattle from seven different breeds exhibited. In addition, there are educational seminars, virtual farm tours, America’s Dairyland Marketplace and much, much more.
4. World Dairy Expo is celebrating its 40th year. How has the expo changed over the years?
The first World Dairy Expo even had a different name – the World Food Exposition. It was a consumer-based event with entertainment, exhibits and a dairy cattle show. In the early 1970s, the name was changed to World Dairy Expo with the primary focus being Midwestern and national dairy cattle shows. In the 1980s, all of the dairy cattle shows at World Dairy Expo became national shows and the commercial exhibit portion of the show began its substantial growth. In the 1990s, the Red & White dairy cattle show was added and the Exhibition Hall was built.
As the dairy industry has changed over the last 40 years, World Dairy Expo has worked very hard to make certain that this show is the best in the world, meeting the changing needs and wishes of dairy producers from around the world.
5. Why would a dairyman want to come to World Dairy Expo?
All dairy producers are profit-motivated. So let’s start right there. This is an incredibly cost-effective way to comparison shop, kick some tires and find out what’s out there.
Secondly, rubbing shoulders with their colleagues from around the world and sharing new, successful ideas is a very valuable experience.
Thirdly, it’s fun. It is truly a celebration of all that is good in the dairy industry, and taking time once a year to do just that is a good thing.
6. What new things can attendees look forward to this year at World Dairy Expo?
There are always new things every year at World Dairy Expo. There are new products, new technologies, new companies – many of which are debuted at the show. Also, new genetics shown under the bright lights of the Coliseum. So while the format of the show may remain consistent, there are always new and innovative things to see.
7. What is the overall experience of World Dairy Expo like? What should a new attendee prepare for before coming to the event?
New attendees are often surprised by how big the show is. Everything about Expo is big. The trade show is huge; there are four different venues – the Coliseum, the Exhibition Hall, the Arena Building and the Outdoor Trade Mall.
The cattle show is big; there are cows everywhere. And there are a lot of people. It is extremely difficult to experience the whole show in one day; multiple days are really recommended.
8. What is your favorite part of World Dairy Expo?
World Dairy Expo is all about cows, but my favorite part is definitely the people. It is always amazing to see the number of people who attend and the hard work they do as volunteers, cattle exhibitors and commercial exhibitors. It’s cows that bring the people, but it’s the people that make the show.
10. What changes do you see coming in the future for World Dairy Expo?
There will always be the need for those involved in the dairy industry to come together, celebrate and learn from one another. I would expect that World Dairy Expo will continue to evolve as the dairy industry continues to change.
My thanks to Tom and everyone at World Dairy Expo who worked to make this interview possible and the show the largest dairy event in the world. I look forward to this 40th anniversary World Dairy Expo and to see all of you there as well. It really is a great time for the industry to come together. PD
by Darren Olsen, Progressive Dairyman Editor