Why Conferences are Important to Agriculture (and Other Industries!)

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of attending the World Dairy Expo. I had never been before, and have only been to a few agriculture conferences and expositions in my life. (Unless you count the small, local “expo” we have at our county fair each year…) Either way, it was an interesting and fun experience. These events are a vital part of maintaining the integrity and ingenuity of an industry. Why are conferences, expositions, and trade shows so vital to the well-being of an industry? There’s several reasons.

  • Sharing technology. These large events are often where companies launch their newest technologies. This not only helps introduce the new technology to the consumers who may use it, but also introduces it to competing companies. This helps up the ante for the entire industry, and encourages innovation and healthy competition.
  • Much like technology, livestock genetics are introduced and traded at these events, especially when livestock shows are involved. The process of selectively breeding high quality animals, showing them, and then selling and trading genetics through animals, embryo transfer, and semen sales helps to maintain the integrity of a breed. This is true for beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, rabbits, hogs…this is a valuable part of maintaining high quality, diverse, and sound genetics in the animals we rely on for so many products we enjoy.
  • Community building. While I love agriculture and jumped at the opportunity to see the cows, heifers, and booths that the World Dairy Expo had to offer, I was more thrilled to see old friends and meet new ones. Many of my Twitter friends (met through #AgChat and #Agvodate) were present, as well as folks I had met through my various internships. I even had the chance to stay with good friends in Wisconsin before and after my trip to the expo. It isn’t just personal connections that matter, either. It strengthens the entire community of the industry. Connections are built and maintained through these sort of events.
  • Professional networking. This is an especially important component of conferences and conventions for someone in my position. I collected business cards quite regularly throughout the trade show, because these connections could help shape the professional I become someday. It’s valuable for college students on the hunt for jobs, but also for seasoned professionals looking to maintain strong connections within their own industry.
  • It assists in self-regulation of an industry. What comes to mind when I mention this is the fact that one campaign at World Dairy Expo was, essentially, offensive to women. The booth, for a website and project called “Calfology,” included models dressed in schoolgirl outfits, promoting an interactive website. This website’s goal was to be a resource for teaching about calf health and a reference library for calf health needs. While I acknowledge the concept is good, their pitch for it, using provocatively dressed women, was not appropriate. Myself and many other women were offended by this, and I think this display is an example of bad taste in agricultural marketing and outreach. It is my hope that folks who did not appreciate this promotion, let Calfology know. My last blog post, The Objectification of Women and PeTA, highlighted my distaste for the use of sexuality in animal rights propaganda. My good friend Amanda pointed out in the comments section that Calfology was following a similar approach. I agree, and I hope that more individuals speak up to highlight their disdain for this. And that, my friends, would be an instance of self-policing the integrity of agriculture.

This bag was handed out at the Calfology booth. The bag is meant to give the illusion of an attractive girl in a very skimpy skirt, leading a calf. What I see, instead, is a misguided attempt to market what could be a very useful tool.

The calf is cute; don’t get me wrong. I’m just incredibly turned off by the nearly-naked legs behind the calf. The bag is too good not to use, but I may end up spray-painting the bag or finding some creative way to cover those legs (without obscuring the calf).

With that said, my experience at World Dairy Expo was fantastic. I saw some beautiful animals, caught up with fantastic friends, and managed to meet new individuals who, I hope, will also become friends. I learned a lot about the dairy industry, I enjoyed a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, and I bought some of the best cheese I have ever eaten. (I bought a bag of garlic cheddar curds, and a small brick of cranberry white cheddar…oh, and some fudge. Delicious, yummy fudge.)

Despite the blemish that Calfology created on World Dairy Expo for me, it was a fabulous experience for me. It was a great example of why conferences are valuable to furthering an industry. Thank you to everyone who made my trip to the World Dairy Expo a success!

Here are some pictures from my trip to World Dairy Expo!

Beautiful world-class Holsteins on the purple shavings. I've never been to a livestock show with so many attendees before!

This class was the Futurity Champion class. The major dairy breeds all had a Futurity winner, and these winners then competed against each other. The Champion was the Holstein, and the Reserve Champion was the Jersey.

That's me! And Bucky the Badger!

An inquisitive Jersey heifer and her comfy, lazy Red and White Holstein stall mate in one of the barns at World Dairy Expo.

"Green" freestall separaters. This is just one instance of interesting technologies I witnessed at WDE. These separaters are flexible, which means that cattle run less risk of injury if they "get stuck" in them.

My favorite (non-edible) souvenir from World Dairy Expo! I am now the proud owner of a purple cow!


2 thoughts on “Why Conferences are Important to Agriculture (and Other Industries!)

  1. One of my coworkers got me a Calfology bag and I didn’t even notice that about the bag. Just assumed it was meant to be a girl leading a calf and that’s it.

    World Dairy Expo is probably the best expo I’ve ever been to. It’s truly an amazing event.

    • I liked the “concept” of the bag, which is to make it look like the person carrying the bag is leading a calf. At the same time, that effect would have been just as impressive with a longer skirt or even blue jeans. In fact, I think I’d have preferred blue jeans on those skinny legs.

      World Dairy Expo was awesome. I really enjoyed it, and it was great to finally meet you, Anna! Hopefully we cross paths again!

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