Four NH 4-H members recently returned from the 2023 National 4-H Dairy Conference, held annually in Madison, WI. The conference features four packed days in the heart of America’s dairy industry. Over 200 4-H youth from across the country gather over this shared passion for dairy.
The conference kicks off with a pin exchange. While this activity may seem simple or even lackluster, this has become a tradition of several national 4-H experiences. All youth bring pins or some token from the state they are from and trade with all the other delegates. This gives youth a perfect opportunity to get to know fellow delegates and learn about the states they came from. Networking at this conference is twofold. Not only do delegates meet other 4-H members from across the country, but they’re able to build stronger connections with those they traveled with from their home state.
The rest of the conference serves as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. The conference attendees travel to businesses and venues that serve as landmarks for the dairy industry, such as ABS Global, the National Dairy Shrine, Hoard’s Dairy Farm, Hoard’s Dairyman Publishing, and World Dairy Expo. Every meal features a speaker that again showcases another aspect of the dairy industry. Past speakers have included senior vice presidents of Dairy Farmers of America, one of the leading milk cooperatives in the United States, to social media influencers who teach the youth to own their skills in ag-vocating.
World Dairy Expo is considered the largest dairy cattle show in the world. People travel from across the country and even outside of the country to exhibit the best of the best dairy cattle. The animals that come to the show are top-notch and have a list of titles longer than human resumes. For 4-H youth to be able to attend an event of this caliber and be exposed to the quality of cattle is almost an indescribable experience. Walking through the barns, anyone can feel the hard work and determination of the exhibitors. It gives the 4-H members who attend this trip something to look up to and strive to be. Aside from the cattle, there is a tradeshow with vendors of all kinds showcasing new technology for every dairy farmer. Isles are filled with new cattle feed supplements, the most advanced robotic milking machines, and more.
Beyond the networking and pretty cattle, youth who attend this conference are exposed to a variety of career opportunities in one place. Between the speakers, farm trips, and other events, the delegates hear from all aspects of the industry like equipment sales, nutrition consultation, production dairy farmers, veterinarians, agricultural journalism, reproduction, and the list goes on. Youth return from this conference with a better understanding of their future in agriculture and are ready to begin thinking about their career path in it. NH 4-H is proud to continue this tradition of sending youth on this capstone animal science experience and is appreciative of the funding support from the 4-H Foundation of NH.