Spring Dairy Expo is quite an event

Spring lifts all our spirits. It is the season that allows us the time to step away from reality and renew our hopes for a better year than the last.

We can briefly put away our dismal moods and enjoy the simple beauty of turning the cows out to pasture for the first time in many months.

It’s the scenery, the smell of mowed grass and the pleasure of being involved with animal agriculture.

With this season comes Spring Dairy Expo at the Ohio Exposition Center. No other Buckeye dairy event can measure up to the scope and vision of SDE.

The timing is impeccable and if we are fortunate, Mother Nature affords us good weather. If you missed attending 2009 SDE, put it on your calendar for next year.

Once I explain all that happens, you will surely want to visit in 2010.

Testimony to volunteers

It takes place because of volunteers who generate the time, energy and the giving spirit to the cause. They check in the cattle, work the rings, manage trade shows, fill in all the paperwork and organize an “Olympic” schedule of events in just three days.

These are also the same people who have day jobs and manage their own dairy farms.

Supreme event for youth

Buckeye Dairy Club members managed three sales this year. Although the planning began last fall, it takes hours of time to prepare and merchandise the consignments.

They juggle their schedules to attend classes and yet this event allows them to put into motion some of that priceless education.

Ohio provides them the setting and the motivation to learn and it is hoped their talents and skills will eventually be invested in the dairy industry.

Four showmanship classes were evaluated on Friday evening by the finest youth judges anywhere.

Ninety-three young men and women exhibited their animals to the best of their ability to be recognized as a top show person. Parents watched on the sidelines with pride and even offered a few coaching tips as their progeny walked by them.

On Saturday, the State 4-H and FFA Dairy Judging Contest was held with more than 375 participants crowding the ring to get a good look at the classes offered for their evaluation.

It was nearly four hours of focus, including older 4-Hers who were required to prepare and present a set of reasons. Much planning goes into such an event and there was a marked increase in number of 4-H participants for 2009.

Watching so many kids in this dairy setting, who could deny Ohio’s dairy industry will survive and thrive in another generation?

Beauty pageant

The cow shows are a major focus. Five hundred and sixty-four animals from six different breeds and 13 states were exhibited in the span of three days. Those statistics alone pay tribute to SDE.

Stepping into the ring, it is a beautiful sight to see heifers and cows prepared for a possible moment of glory.

Exhibitors in the inner circle are working for a second look while those on the outside are checking show catalogs for pedigree information and speculating on the choices of the judge.

It is a time for competition and camaraderie.

Buyers, sellers meet

There were four different breed sales and more than 205 animals were auctioned. In an economy that has been less than favorable, sale averages were solid.

The crowds in the bleachers were the living proof that dairy people are resilient.

Teaching and being taught

The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association sponsored a judging workshop April 9. Given the opportunity to discuss and debate the placings on six classes, seasoned judges provided lively discussion for the lead judge, Larry Schirm.

In return, he focused on the fact that judging is an evolving skill that includes logics and philosophies. There was even premiums to those who scored the highest.

In the milking parlor, OSU judging students manage this important service. It is a testing ground to develop and foster relationships between generations.

The hours are long, but it is a process that merits more importance than merely milking cows.

Dairy industry displays provided us current resources and the folks to interpret them. Maybe they need more of our appreciation for their input and role. Hats off to all of you. As a matter of fact, you are probably in print on one of those hats.

Networking

Using my powers of observation, there were people, young and old, interacting with each other. The conversations were varied, but it is important to understand today’s society and social networking allows us the opportunity to share, empathize and learn from each other.

Whoever said “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other,” was wise indeed.

Showcases Ohio

Each day dairy folks set priorities for what will occupy their time. If we can balance the work with a measure of entertainment, maybe we can feel better mentally and physically.

However, balance is a mystery and only temporary.

A classroom

With my responsibilities, I was unable to teach one of the Animal Science 207 (Dairy Cattle Evaluation) classes. To replace this time, each student was asked to spend that same amount of time at SDE.

They were given several options of ways to spend their time. Each of the 30 students was asked to write a paper titled “What I Learned about Cows and Cow People.”

Some of these students have very limited information and contact with large animals and yet others have lots of experiences.

From either’s frame of reference, SDE taught them some valuable lessons.

Here are some of the quotes:

- “I never thought I would be a ring man at a sale, but I loved it.”

- “Dairy folks included me and were really interested in why I was there. (Even though I do not have a farm background.)”

- “Exhibitors really care about their cattle.”

- “People involved with show cattle consistently put out a quality product regardless of the countless hours of work.”

- “Cow people are hard core. Anyone who wakes up that early to do manual labor would have to be.”

- “I was surprised to see lots of kids and families staying in tents right next to the cows.”

- “Cows have personalities and I finally touched one, rather than seeing one on paper.”

Put it all together and SDE was a place where we could showcase what we dairy folks value in our chosen lifestyle.

Others were there to make note of this and they drove away with much more than they arrived with. From my point of view, I was proud to be involved.

Plan ahead for 2010

Next year’s dates are March 25-27.

About the Author

Bonnie Ayers is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. More Stories by Bonnie Ayers

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