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How many will attend World Dairy Expo in 2022?

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 30 September 2015

Sometimes it takes an anniversary to realize just how much times have changed.

This year marks the 10th consecutive year I will have attended World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

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As a trophy to mark attendance, I’ve collected one of the show’s uniquely designed coffee mugs for each year I’ve attended. I’m not a coffee drinker, so they sit on a shelf in my office. However, they remind me daily of the special week I get to spend in America’s Dairyland each fall.

That time of the year has finally arrived again.

Those who follow me on Twitter (@wcooley) know I’m an unabashed fan of the Badger Dairy Club’s grilled cheese sandwiches. (Follow the hashtag #grilledcheese to keep track of my count, and others’, during the show.) I think my annual record for number eaten in one week is six.

Of course, that’s not as many as some will eat. The line of show-goers waiting for a cheesy meal can be long. That’s my handicap – or at least my excuse for not being competitive with some of my social media friends.

Overall, World Dairy Expo is the busiest week of the entire year for me and our editorial staff. And we love every bit of it. (Click here to visit our event coverage page.)

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This anniversary, coupled with one of our recent popular Facebook posts, made me realize a fact: Since my consecutive expo attendance streak started, we’ve lost more than 17,000 dairies. We all know our industry is consolidating, but for some reason the size of that number was startling.

A few years ago, I wrote an editorial discussing the half-life of U.S. dairies. History indicates that every 16 years, one in every two licensed dairies goes out of business. If that stat holds true, when I’m writing this commentary before the show in 2022, we’ll have just 31,000 licensed dairies.

Down cycles in milk price are the X factor in this equation. In my opinion, we’re perhaps one, maybe two more, off the pace of proving history does repeat itself. I hope it doesn’t happen. The livelihoods and lifestyles of good farm families are at stake.

When viewing the reality of this data, one of our Facebook fans lamented, “It’s sad to see the small Mom-and-Pop dairies go, but it’s promising seeing the incredible efficiencies in pounds per cow increase.”

I disagree that it’s just “Mom-and-Pop” dairies that are leaving the industry. Dairies of all sizes can struggle to make it from year to year. For sure, dairying in this century is more risky, and yet it is potentially very rewarding.

If you don’t truly believe the “rewarding” part anymore, you might be one of the next dairies on the way out. The “will to dairy” is every bit a characteristic of a forward-thinking, successful dairy farm.

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The industry as a whole must feel the same optimism about the future. The shrinking pool of licensed U.S. dairy operations doesn’t seem to be affecting show attendance in Madison. Attendance at World Dairy Expo has been increasing the last several years.

More than 77,000 show-goers were on the grounds last year. There’s still a lot of interest in what high-performing dairies and their cows are capable of.

In conclusion, I feel fortunate to go to World Dairy Expo. I may not “earn my ticket” every year like some do. (Click here to read the article on this topic) But I do get excited about being part of the future this time each year. Hope to see you at the expo this year and in 2022!  PD

Walt Cooley
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