I’ve never been to a livestock show that didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.
I never expected to feel that way about a dairy show! The 2009 Michigan Dairy Expo, however, was an amazing experience for all involved.
The week started with the 4-H Dairy Days quiz bowl competition. This was the first year for the “novice” division of the contest and the turn out was great!
These kids really knew their stuff; it was so humbling to be educated about the dairy industry by kids half my age!
Tuesday was an early morning. 4-H Dairy Days Showmanship started at 7:30 a.m. with three rings running at the same time.
I was so lost! My job for the day was to take pictures of all the winners. There was just one problem: I only knew a handful of these kids!
Luckily some show moms stepped in and helped me out. I quickly put names and faces together and was able to grab kids as they came out of the ring and snap a picture in front of the backdrop.
After showmanship we rolled straight into the 4-H Dairy Days Breed Shows.
The exhibitors never took a break! They were either showing or fitting or watching the show.
Everyone helped one another. When a 4-Hers heifer decided she had to go right before going into the ring, I watched as three different parents offered the kid a paper towel or help cleaning the heifer up.
It reminded me so much of what I love about showing pigs: even though we compete against each other we’re still a big family who is there to help each other out whenever needed.
Tuesday night was the first ever Michigan Livestock Expo Saleabration. Even though the dairy exhibitors typically don’t sell their animals, they were included in the sale and sold dairy products instead.
It was such a unique experience to see the dairy and livestock realms combine for that event!
The sponsors were so generous and deserve so much gratitude for supporting all the great kids who were honored at the sale.
Wednesday was dominated by The Great Dairy Adventure consumer education day.
There were representatives from across the Michigan dairy industry out in full force to work booths dedicated to teaching the thousands of local children who visited about dairy production.
I spent the day at the “Ag Goes High Tech” booth helping kids tweet about what they enjoyed about the experience.
It was a pretty simple procedure:
- I’d ask the kids if they had fun and what their favorite part of the Great Dairy Adventure was.
- I’d ask the parent/guardian if it was ok to tweet it by explaining that there were many farmers on Twitter and that this was a way to say thank you to them for their hard work and share what the kids learned about dairy production.
- I’d give the child a coloring page with a link to the Michigan Dairy Expo website and Michigan Dairy Expo on Twitter so they could find their tweet when they got home.
The responses were amazing. We had “tweeters” ranging from their toddler years to grandparents, all eager to share with the world what they learned and loved about The Great Dairy Adventure.
Some of my favorite tweets were:
Emmy, age 3 “I liked hugging the cows.”
Chloe, age 8: “My favorite part was petting a baby calf. It was 3 weeks old.”
Dorwin, 57: “It gave the young kids a chance to see animals and what dairy products really are.”
Robert, age 63: ” I liked that it was promoting the dairy industry & farmers, glad to see someone sticking up for them.”
There were so many people on Twitter who loved our “Ag Goes High Tech” tweets that we compiled them all into a pdf file to share.
Thursday was the first day of the open show. We started with showmanship then showed all the open heifers and finished up with PeeWee Showmanship.
PeeWee Showmanship (or Novice as we know it in KY) is a way for kids too young to participate in 4-H shows to discover all the great things about showing an animal.
Dr. Joe Domecq judges the class every year and gives each child a taste of the public speaking skills that go hand in hand with raising 4-H project animals.
Think of it as the agricultural version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”
Each child states their name, points out their parents in the audience, shares the name of their animal, and answers whatever other questions they may be asked.
Each year the competition is so close that they award all participants top honors and present each of them with a trophy!
If you want a better understanding of event, check out Michigan Dairy Expo’s MooTube video about it.
Thursday evening is the awards banquet for all the Dairy Days competitions.
While the participants already know the results of the quiz bowl and showmanship contests, they are still anxious to find out how they did in the dairy judging and dairy management competitions.
Friday was dedicated to the open cow show.
I was once again playing photographer, however, I had gotten to know so many families over the course of the week that it was much easier to keep track of who I needed pictures of.
It was an incredibly long five days, but an incredibly rewarding five days as well.
I met 6 and 7 year old kids who reminded me that it doesn’t matter what happens in the ring; shows are really about having fun and making friends.
I watched years of hard work pay off for some 4-Hers and tears choked back by others who knew it would be another year before they could chase that dream again.
I saw kids lives change before my eyes, a surreal experience to for someone who just aged out of 4-H herself.
I have always said that the best kids in the world are raised in a show barn.
Every time I said that, I was referring to the livestock shows I had grown up in.
Now I have proof that dairy barns are no different.