Six hundred horses representing 30 different breeds of all sizes and colors participated in this year’s Midwest Horse Fair.

Six hundred horses representing 30 different breeds of all sizes and colors participated in this year’s Midwest Horse Fair.

Every April, Kimberly Conrad of Rockford, Ill., loads up her stallion, known by equestrian fans as SAA Snort N Blow, and makes the hour-and-a-half drive for the annual Midwest Horse Fair. It’s a highlight of her year and has been for the last 15 years she has participated.

“I enjoy talking to fellow exhibitors and meeting all the people who come to view and partake in the fair,” Conrad says. “One of my favorite events is the Liberty Presentation, where you turn your horses loose in the coliseum for two minutes and they strut around and show their stuff in front of an enthusiastic crowd. My stallion is a natural performer. He loves to show off for the crowds. He has an absolute ball.”

DATCP Vet Dr. Julie McGwin checks on horses coming into the Midwest Horse Fair.

DATCP Vet Dr. Julie McGwin checks on horses coming into the Midwest Horse Fair.

Midwest Horse Fair

A Madison tradition since 1979, the Midwest Horse Fair drew a record 61,000 people over three days, with 600 horses representing 30 different breeds in 2015. Held at the Alliant Energy Center, it is one of several large livestock events that take place in Wisconsin each year.

“We attract horse people not only from Wisconsin but the entire region – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan,” says Rhonda Reese, general manager of the Midwest Horse Fair. “We have established such a great horse fair community, and it’s rewarding to see everyone come together to attend. Plus, the proceeds from our event go back to the Wisconsin Horse Council to promote the equine industry in Wisconsin. It’s a win-win for all of us.”

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Popular attractions include the Liberty Presentation which showcases the charm and free spirit of individual horses, as well as breed demos, fashion shows, competitions and Stallion Avenue.

Keeping the animals safe and healthy is a primary concern of organizers.

“Each year, we work with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to meet their animal health requirements, but we also check every horse entering the grounds to make sure they have the proper paperwork,” Reese says. “We have each horse owner fill out a health questionnaire on their horse two weeks leading up to the fair.”

Competitors show livestock at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Competitors show livestock at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Wisconsin State Fair

Another major livestock event is the Wisconsin State Fair, which runs for 11 days every August in West Allis. The first Wisconsin State Fair was held in 1851 on a 6-acre plot along the banks of the Rock River in Janesville. Admission was only a dime, and it attracted nearly 18,000 people.

Nowadays, the Wisconsin State Fair is a highly anticipated event, with attendance topping 1 million people in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Activities and entertainment are spread out on 200 acres, including more than 50 rides, hundreds of food choices (many served on a stick), live music by country stars and pop sensations, and of course, plenty of animals and agriculture displays.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the fair industry and a very important part of the Wisconsin State Fair,” says Kristi Chuckel, communications and marketing manager for the Wisconsin State Fair Park. “The Badgerland Financial ‘Discovery Barnyard’ is a popular interactive attraction, as are our Case IH Coliseum shows. The Draft Horse Shows always draw large crowds, as do our dairy cattle and market steer breed shows.”

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The DATCP plays a key role in keeping the animals, exhibitors, and fair-goers safe and healthy. Along with state veterinarians, Animal Health Division inspectors check on animals and procedures are in place to make the event safe for both animals and spectators.

“Seeing all the hard work we put in come together on opening day, plus the excitement on the faces of our fair-goers and exhibitors, is rewarding,” Chuckel says. “The fair has been part of many Wisconsin families’ lives for generations, and the fact they continue to come back year after year makes us proud.”

Livestock auctions are one of many livestock events at Wisconsin’s State Fair.

Livestock auctions are one of many livestock events at Wisconsin’s State Fair.

World Dairy Expo

Dairy cattle from all over the U.S. and Canada are exhibited at the World Dairy Expo, a five-day event held in late September/early October at Madison’s Alliant Energy Center. An international meeting place for the dairy industry and dairy enthusiasts, the World Dairy Expo has been a tradition since 1967. It has grown to attract more than 77,000 people and 2,500 show cows.

To prevent possible disease transmission among cattle at this event, DATCP veterinarians train students from the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine to help with livestock biosecurity check-ins. Their work is overseen at the Expo by a DATCP veterinarian or a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

At the 2014 World Dairy Expo, more than 80 students worked in eight-hour shifts over 56 hours to check in all of the animals. This process is especially important because many cows travel long distances to the expo and need to be milked, bedded in straw and given a chance to rest from their journey as soon as possible upon arrival.

The theme for the 2015 World Dairy Expo was “Dairy in Our DNA,” and it ran from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3.


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