Spring Dairy Expo: It’s the relationships that count


It is Monday and I am sitting amidst the rubble of my office space with little or no room to spare. Mounded beside me and on the floor and in the hallway are the leftovers from Spring Dairy Expo.

Just one week ago today, I was pulling everything out, editing paperwork, and recalling what we said would be done differently for 2014. Spring Dairy Expo is now over and I feel that we can safely say it was one of the very best ever!

Cattle sale

Of course, I am the perennial optimist but the figures and the individual events tell more of the story. Nearly 250 head of sale cattle passed through the arena to a new home and one Holstein cow even brought $98,000! I was really hoping for $100,000 and impressive headlines, but my signature was not the one signing on the dotted line.

Exhibitors from Ohio and eight other states traveled to the fairgrounds to show their finest. Kudos to them as preparing cattle for show in early spring is not the most fun task, and Mother Nature did not smile upon our event with really good weather.

Caring for cattle

Yet, there were over 500 cows and heifers tied up in the Gilligan Complex. Bundled up in coveralls and hats, exhibitors were battling the extreme changes of weather and displaying professional care of cattle. Spring Dairy Expo premiered March 27 with the Holstein USA

Judges Conference

When I looked around the ring, it looked like the Who’s Who of the famous and skilled in the business.

From all over the United States, they had come to participate in this one day event. Led by the seasoned judges and educators, they were guided through Holstein classes of not only evaluating the cattle, but also professional expertise on details that need to be a part of the repertoire of a national show judge. It was impressive and certainly an honor for SDE to host them all.

Sale management

Buckeye Dairy Club kids and their advisors, John and Lemmermen and Dr. Eastridge, were absolutely on task 24 hours of the day and you really should have applauded their efforts in managing the Buckeye Classic sales with integrity and “true grit” for the business of marketing. Ohio State did not cancel classes or midterms for our corner of the world!

March Madness has quite a different meaning for these students. It is competitive, but we deal with more colors than orange and our court is the tanbark! Let’s not forget the parlor which was open to accommodate the needs of the business end of cows. From early morning to late at night and whenever a cow needs milked post-show, there are judging team students there to handle the equipment, the milk, the milk hauler, the exhibitors, the paper work, and all else that requires their attention.

New era

Tyler Schonauer was there nearly every hour and without one single complaint to me about the job plus he had a crew of potential leaders that will set the pace for the next era of the dairy industry.

Youth events are a highlight of expo! It is amazing to watch as they fill up the rings for the

Showmanship contests

Parents observe with adrenaline flowing through their veins and I smiled as I heard the sideline coaching. Guess I remembered doing the same kind of thing!

It is more than just a show, but an educational experience for kids, adults, and the officials who work the ring. As I have said before, success begins at the end of a halter! All of this can create an appetite and just outside the double doors, American Dairy Association was sponsoring a meal for everyone there. It was the best meal of the week and one enjoyed with my own family and over 700 others attending.

Cattle evaluation

After hours of selecting and asking for cattle, the judging contest took center stage on Saturday morning as nearly 400 kids began to slowly fill the bleachers. 4-H and FFA youth were there to lend a skillful “eye” towards the ring and take their turn at evaluating cows and heifers.

Neil Smith of the American Jersey Cattle Association directed us through the maize of details as he handled the job of moderating with precision. No doubt, he has had more than enough experience for this position and we are so lucky to borrow him for the day. It takes over 25 volunteers behind the scenes and in the forefront to manage this event. Quality planning lends itself to the quantity who expect the best and nothing less.

Each year, we learn to re-think the scenarios and add new resources and people to our group, such as Tom Oglesby of Ohio FFA. The real “heart” of Spring Dairy Expo is the volunteers who make it happen! Review the website and the names of these folks.

The details

Whatever angle is most important to the individual, you will see many details being handled by someone who simply said, “I can do that.”

The numbers and statistics are recorded, but the real story is explained by the people and the relationships they create with SDE. It is often said that some jobs are “thankless!” I prefer to be quoted as saying they are only thankless IF we fail to express our appreciation. So here in my office, amidst the mess, I will compose several hand written notes and with each one, I will be reminded of their special contributions.

Next generation

As I touch the shirt tails of the next generation and also stand beside my peers and mentors, I am a lucky person who still has the opportunity to express my appreciation for past, present, and future good deeds at SDE!


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Bonnie Ayars 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.



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