It’s September, and we are entering the most magical time of year.
    I don’t mean autumn’s fall colors, and I have no idea how many shopping days there are until Christmas.
    I mean cow shows. Spectacular parades of bovine beauties, eye candy for people like me.
    I am a cow show addict.
    They say the first step is admitting there is a problem. I’m still in the denial phase. I don’t consider it to be a problem. I know people who are much worse than I am, people who have started countdowns to the next World Dairy Expo before their trailer turns onto Rimrock Road leaving the Alliant Energy Center.
    What draws people like me to cattle shows? I know people outside of the business, and even some inside, do not understand our need to be in certain off-the-beaten-path locales at odd times of the year. I mean, who doesn’t love Louisville in November, Madison in October or Syracuse and Columbus in April?
    I am only able to use my own experiences to speculate about my affliction.
    My trouble might be genetic. My parents met at the Wisconsin State Holstein Show, while their families were tied across the walk from each other. I’m actually pretty lucky to be here because by the end of that week, neither was particularly enamored with the other. My dad called my mom stupid, and I think she had a few other choice words for him. Lucky for me, Dad and my uncle were friends, so their paths did cross again with a bit less animosity.
    My trouble might be a complication of birth. My mom was on the wash rack while in labor. This may also explain why I would still rather be on the wash rack rather than doing the pack, even in Madison when ice crystals are forming on my scrub brush.
    Surely, the cows factor into my addiction. I love cows, plain and simple. That love of good cows was my connection with my dad. I was the kid who shared his passion for the cows. If there is a genetic component in my addiction, I inherited it from my dad. From the time I was little he taught me everything he knew about showing cows (Except for clipping. I simply refused to grasp that.). We plotted our showstrings and planned strategies for success. Growing up, Dad and I poured over breed magazines and sire catalogs together. We spent lots of time in the truck going to shows. I even developed a game to help keep him awake: “I went to a show and I took…” naming famous show cows, going down the alphabet. A few of the letters were a little more difficult than others!
    My parents sold their cows before my son was born, but my dad passed that love of cows down to Austin, too. Austin grew up sitting on Grandpa’s lap, reading the sire catalogs and breed magazines. In 2008, they started a new herd together with the purchase of three Jersey heifers. That first year, they experienced great successes – from showmanship wins to a youth show reserve junior champion at World Dairy Expo, top six finishes at the national shows, culminating with two All-American nominations. It was a great year that fanned the flames of a brilliant fire, and another generation of cow show addicts was born.
    Fast forward to 2010. Austin and my dad took their own small string to the North American Livestock Exposition in Louisville that year, and spent the trip home making plans for exhibiting our first Jersey Jug entry the next year. Then, the day after Christmas, my dad died suddenly. Christmas Day was the last day Austin and I spent with him, discussing Norman Nabholz’s book, “Millionaires in the Cornfields,” about the National Cattle Congress glory days. From that point on, Austin’s mission to succeed in the show ring took on the purpose of simply making Grandpa proud.
    For the past seven years, I have worked in jobs that fed my addiction, covering cow shows, posting photos and results on the Internet for those who weren’t as lucky as I was to be there. I can’t even begin to count how many shows I’ve attended. I’ve covered shows all over the United States and some in Canada.
    There is nothing better than seeing who looks good and how they stack up. And I love how the cows know and are truly professionals. I love seeing them in the pack, soaking up the attention while getting down to the business of filling and making milk. I love seeing them in their wedding clothes parading in the ring. Nothing can compare to the sight of a cow who knows she’s good, and just floats around the ring with her head up, ears flicked forward, daring the person in the center of the ring to deny her.
    This year, for the first time in a long time, I’m the person who isn’t at all the shows. I’m the person relying on my former colleagues to be speedy and accurate with their coverage. I’m the person sitting at the computer, hitting the refresh button. My first real experience with missing a show was the Minnesota State Fair. Next up is the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, Pa. I know that will be a difficult week for me. I will probably act a lot like a couple of our old show cows used to when they got left home. I never witnessed it, but Mom assures me it wasn’t pleasant.  
    My World Dairy Expo experience this year will be very different from the past 10. Instead of hoofing miles upon miles around the colored shavings, dressed in black, taking photos of cows I love, I’ll be doing something else. As part of the Dairy Star staff, I’ll be working to help create the Expo Daily Edition, and spending time in our booth, hopefully meeting many of you for the first time.
    As the magic gets ready to start this fall, I think about the reason people from around the globe flock to Madison in October, or wish they could. World Dairy Expo is simply the greatest dairy show on Earth, celebrating the greatest cows, the most wonderful people, the most exciting sales, and the most amazing advancements in our industry.
    You don’t even have to be a cow show addict to take a page from Dorothy’s playbook, close your eyes, click your boots together and whisper, “There’s no place like World Dairy Expo…”