The National 4-H Dairy Conference is an annual event which should be the pinnacle of a 4-H member’s involvement in the dairy project. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the best dairy cattle in the world ( it coincides with the World Dairy Expo) and also learn more about the dairy industry than you could possibly learn in a whole year of 4-H club work.
Held in Madison, Wisconsin late September/early October, this event is located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus in close proximity to the Dane County Exposition Center, home of the World Dairy Expo. The National 4-H Dairy Conference utilizes the resources of the university and surrounding dairy businesses and organizations to teach youth about all aspects of the industry. Youth tour iconic sites such as the National Dairy Hall of Fame, NASCO, and Hoards Dairy farm.
The stated purpose of the Conference (from their own handbook) is to:
• provide a means by which various individuals and groups interested in the dairy industry and youth can cooperate to achieve educational objectives based on the developmental needs of youth.
• promote and sponsor an educational program which will provide a better understanding of the operations involved in the production, processing, marketing and use of dairy products, as well as related areas.
• provide a broader understanding of careers available in dairy production, processing, marketing and other selected areas.
The National 4-H Dairy Conference offers an excellent opportunity to interact with leaders in the dairy industry, University of Wisconsin dairy professors, dairy specialists from around the country, 4-H volunteer dairy leaders, corporate representatives and new friends with similar interests from across the U.S. and Canada.
The objectives of the Conference (from their handbook) are to help selected 4-H youth:
• increase understanding of the dairy industry.
• learn about additional vocational and professional opportunities in the dairy industry.
• practice good citizenship, group participation and leadership responsibilities.
• develop additional individual initiative and competence in areas of special interest and aptitude in the dairy field and related areas.
These objectives are accomplished through educational workshops, motivational speakers, tours to major industry sites, and interactions with peers and industry leaders during a packed four-day and four-night event on the edge of the Madison, Wisconsin campus.
A quote from Katie, a 2019 participant from New Jersey:
“Overall, I would recommend this trip to anyone who can attend; it is informative while being fun. It is a great way to meet new friends and expose yourself to the dairy industry.
During one of the last days of the conference, we participated in seminars held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the dairy science department. My favorite seminars were the lactation lab, where you dissect an udder and review its makeup. I also enjoyed the artificial insemination lab where we learned the correct procedure for artificial breeding.
Afterwards, we went to the World Dairy Expo. This experience was absolutely amazing! It was so cool to see such prized dairy cows and learn about the dairy industry. ”
So – are you now interested? How do you get to go? Talk to your 4-H Dairy Club leader. Applications are usually sent to the dairy leaders in the spring and are usually due to the State 4-H Dairy Coordinator in April. Applications are reviewed by the Dairy Club leaders and recommendations are made as to who may attend. There must be at least one adult chaperone (more if there are more than ten youth members attending). This event is fun and educational for chaperones too!
What are the qualifications for attending?
Youth delegates should be selected from outstanding 4-H Dairy Project members who:
1. have participated at least three years in the 4-H Dairy Project, including the current year;
2. are at least 15 but not more than 18 years of age the year they will attend;
3. have outstanding records of 4-H Dairy accomplishments;
4. have abilities and talents which will enable them to make a real contribution to the conference;
5. have an interest in the production, marketing, processing and use of dairy products;
6. are capable of bringing the inspiration and information back to their state and passing it on to others through talks, reports, news stories, etc.;
7. have not attended the National 4-H Dairy Conference before;
8. are not exhibiting dairy animals at that year’s World Dairy Expo;
9. are not participating in that year’s National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest.
By Carol K. Ward, County 4-H Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension