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HERd management: To get to World Dairy Expo, you have to earn it

Emily Yeiser Published on 30 September 2015

It probably took me a lot longer than others to realize what I was missing. The words “World Dairy Expo,” “Madison” and “colored shavings” were relatively lost on me for the first half of my years in the dairy industry.

This was simply because I thought the only way you got to World Dairy Expo was by showing at World Dairy Expo. Our leased 4-H animals rarely came anywhere close to the top half of the class at local shows. The expo was so out of reach, it was barely worth acknowledging. Or so I thought.



As I entered into my last year as an intermediate in 4-H dairy judging, there was a lot of hype around becoming a senior. At first I was just excited to get to be around the cool, older kids I had always looked up to.

But then I realized that the coolest, and most talented, older kids who made the state dairy judging teams got to travel to compete in national judging contests – including World Dairy Expo. From that moment on, I was determined to make the state team and get to the big show.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I could have attended World Dairy Expo, probably numerous times, without being on the state dairy judging team.

My parents would have been happy to send me to Madison just to let me experience it – I have pretty awesome parents – but I didn’t just want to go to the expo without a purpose.

I wanted to earn my way there, and since showing an animal was one of the most unattainable dreams I could have ever imagined at the time, judging as a member of the Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging team was finally my ticket to step onto the famous colored shavings.


That day in the fall of 2002 is one I will cherish forever: Walking into the Alliant Energy Center, my first time stepping on the colored shavings (green), seeing the design of the ring (“Pointed in Your Direction”), and the realization of just how fortunate I was to get the opportunity to represent Maryland on a national stage at the one and only World Dairy Expo.

After my first trip to Madison, the spark had been ignited, and I looked forward to the next time I could return. Thankfully, my first time at the expo was not my last, but there were a few years I missed because of holding steadfast to my self-imposed rule.

I had to earn my way back there. I truly believe that Madison hosts an exhibition deserved of that amount of respect, and the privilege to attend is not one to be taken lightly.

A year or so had lapsed, and all of a sudden, my last year of 4-H had arrived. Our small hobby herd had grown, and we decided that one of our Brown Swiss heifers was good enough to take to the All-American Dairy Show in Pennsylvania.

This was the first time we had an animal show outside of the state of Maryland since 1997, which had been a less-than-successful venture. To say we were leery of putting our heifer and our very unrecognizable prefix on a national stage again would be an understatement.

So when the flood waters came to the 2004 All-American and cancelled that year’s show, we (with some encouragement from friends) decided that our heifer would go to show at World Dairy Expo.


The unattainable dream was about to come true. There are few nerves in the world that compare to leading your animal, with your prefix, onto the famous colored shavings (green again).

The spark created in 2002 had turned into a fire as we stepped onto what can only be described as hallowed dairy ground. We ended up in the middle of the class and were absolutely ecstatic. We then proceeded to get our first willows-backdrop photograph – a must for any first-time livestock exhibitor.

A few years later, that heifer became our first and only top-five finish at World Dairy Expo as a junior three-year-old and our first and only All-American nomination. The dream we once disregarded entirely came true just like we were Cinderella finally attending the ball.

Many years have passed since those monumental moments, but we still consider World Dairy Expo a family affair. Mom has fond memories of traveling to the expo with a dairy legend and friend, listening to his stories for hours in those padded red seats in the Coliseum.

My sister too had the distinct honor of judging in 4-H and collegiately. She and I now watch the show online when we can’t attend in person, texting each other feverishly to share our comments on placings.

Even Dad, a city kid from central New York, attended his first World Dairy Expo just a few years ago when he too caught a bit of the spark the rest of his family so passionately shares for the annual dairy spectacle.

I have continued to hold steady to my rule of “earning” my trips to the expo, serving as an official for the 4-H judging contest and as a coach of a collegiate team.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when the words “World Dairy Expo” didn’t immediately resonate with me. I am so thankful the industry and World Dairy Expo allowed me to realize there are many different ways to achieve your goals and, most importantly, that there is absolutely no dream that is unattainable.  PD

Emily Yeiser
  • Emily Yeiser

  • Dairy Show Enthusiast
  • Spots Pride Farm