The author is a freelance writer based in Union Bridge, Md.

The World Ayrshire Federation Conference supplied not only more spectators of the Ayrshire Show but also drew in more exhibitors. In 2016, 320 Ayrshires graced the colored shavings, a 22 percent growth from 2015 numbers.
Many people love the opportunity to travel — time spent during long rides on large buses, learning new skills, and gaining lasting friendships. Breeders and agriculture advocates alike joined in multiple farm tours and learned specifics from one another during the World Ayrshire Conference that ended its cross-country road trip at the 2016 World Dairy Expo.

Phasing the tours into three different groups, each segment had its own adventures to encounter. Notable stops on the map were the Eastern States Exposition and New England and New York breeders as they hosted socials and greeted guests in Phase 1 in mid-September. The travels then moved into Phase 2 in Pennsylvania and finished at Expo in Phase 3.

All areas had at least one breeder tour, and Palmyra Farm of Hagerstown, Md., was one of them. The Shank and Creek families were special hosts, traveling with guests to their final destinations. Mary Creek, a lifetime, multi-generation Ayrshire breeder and current board member of the U.S. Ayrshire Breeders Association and International Marketing Committee Chair, served as a delegate/director for the World Ayrshire Federation board.

“As a member of the core organizational committee for the conference tour, and then-president of the World Ayrshire Federation, we strived to provide visitors a taste of what the U.S. had to offer,” expressed Creek.

Hospitable hosts

Many of the host farms served a meal that incorporated local products. “The farm stops were great,” said Creek. “Breeders went all out to paint and clean. Cows were clipped and identified to allow guests to see our genetics and production at its best.”

During meals and throughout the tours, Ayrshire members were encouraged to attend to interact with visitors. “Participants valued the hosting breeders’ time and knowledge, and our hope is they take pieces back home to incorporate in their own farms,” shared Creek.

Visiting some of the more historic dairy-related stops in Wisconsin, the Ayrshire conference then met in the Wisconsin Dells for their meeting and ceremonies.

The last stop of the tour was to experience World Dairy Expo. “Expo was the final stop for many reasons,” shared Creek. “We began planning many years ago, and during the last world tour in 2012 we spoke with all participants, and their dream was to attend Expo.”

World Dairy Expo has so much to offer any type of interest, so guests were primarily driven to the Ayrshire Show but were also excited to find so many diverse companies represented.

“Guests attended other breed shows, sales, seminars, virtual tours, and visited many vendor displays,” she said. “Our guests have followed the show online and through media, but all admitted Expo was so much more than they had ever imagined.”

Expo impresses

World Dairy Expo was an eye-opening experience for guests like Cleopas Okone, owner of a five-head herd in Kenya who works closely with the administer of agriculture. “We are really interested in new genetics,” shared Okone. “Coming here and seeing the farms and talking with breeders really provides a direction for us.”

Edmond Els, a 200-head Ayrshire breeder from South Africa, enjoyed meeting like-minded individuals and learned a great deal more about the genetics he has been utilizing.

“I liked talking with other breeders and seeing their cattle,” said Els. “It helps to catch up on a genetic level as well as a friendship level.”

Els was a participant of the board that planned the last world tour. “There’s a level of respect and familiarity that goes with these tours,” shared Els. “Even with the language barrier that we sometimes encounter, most guests leave feeling they can easily interact and understand one another. It’s like traveling with a family after awhile.”

For Vince Steiner, New Zealand Ayrshire breeder of about 400 milking head, the fascination of his first trip to Expo was the quality of cattle being exhibited at the show.

“This trip really relays the message about U.S. cattle and genetics; the depth of quality in the animal classes really impressed me. Our area has a strong youth program, and seeing the level of genetics at these herds makes me feel confident that our next generation will be well equipped,” expressed Steiner.

Exhibitors emerged

Expo guests weren’t the only ones impressed with the depth of classes; long-time Expo cattle exhibitors were as well.

“Entries were up,” shared Gene Hall Jr., exhibitor of Hall’s Ayrshires in Cushing, Okla. “We brought an additional five head; the World Tour provides great exposure for our breed. I think the youth shows were higher in numbers this year, too.”

World Dairy Expo reported a total of 320 Ayrshires that graced the colored shavings during the tour event, a 22 percent jump from last year’s 262 entries.

“I think the show was larger because of the tour. I believe there were also about twice the usual number of entries from Canada,” expressed Creek. “We tried to get as many breeders as possible to work together to exhibit so we could really put on a good show for the world to witness.

“It was also a place for many of our breeders to be able to show their animals to guests since we could not visit all farms across the map,” she added. “We all know it’s expensive to travel, let alone by yourself, but our Ayrshire breeders stepped up and made the commitment to attend in support of the breed.”

Plans are already underway for the next World Ayrshire Conference and tour, but last year’s attendees will surely have memories to hold them over until that time arrives.