–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Valerie Johnson
If you consider Wisconsin’s $44 billion dairy business to be all about big business, you might be surprised to find out that 96 percent of all of Wisconsin’s dairy farms are actually family-owned.
That family touch also is discernible in the World Dairy Expo that this year will celebrate its 50th anniversary when more than 70,000 visitors will attend the exposition October 4 through 8 here in Madison at the Alliant Energy Center campus.
Scott Bentley, general manager of the World Dairy Expo since 2013, told members of the Rotary Club of Madison at its June 1 Club meeting that the exposition represents the 25th largest trade show in the U.S. and generates an economic impact of more than $30 million. But yet the Expo holds on to its humble beginnings by including a commitment to provide educational efforts for the state’s youth and including various competitions. All this is accomplished with a small staff that relies on an army of volunteers, many of whom are affiliated with the Badger Dairy Club of the University of Wisconsin.
“We are the world’s finest dairy trade show,” Bentley said. “The focus is on dairy equipment, products and cattle.” Indeed, 2,500 heads of cattle from 40 different states “attend” as well.
The Expo attracts attendees from 95 different countries, and among the 850 commercial exhibitors, 30 different nations are represented.
Wisconsin, which trails California in actual milk production (but according to Bentley, California’s status is threatened by the potential of future water shortages), is a natural home for the World Expo. In recent years, Wisconsin has dominated the cheese competitions, taking 38 percent of all international cheese competitions. There are 45,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin.
A trend that is now growing in the U.S. and here in Wisconsin and that has been in the making for decades in Europe is “automated milking,” a process whereby robotic technology in individual milking stalls recognizes the cows by sophisticated technology and accordingly milks the cows. Cows typically produce between 50 and 75 pounds of milk per day twice a day for an annual lactation period of 305 days.
Did you miss our meeting this week? CLICK to watch the video.