Jerry Nelson: Expo Excitement

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Jerry Nelson

The two dairy cows wandered, unfettered, throughout the convention hall. They attracted scant attention save for the occasional pedestrian who posed with them for a selfie.

As a recovering dairy farmer, I found this disconcerting. Not just from a safety point of view but also regarding any possible, um, cow-based messiness. No cow has ever been successfully housebroken.

There was another problem with this dynamic dairy duo, one that had to do with their size. The Jersey – her neck tag read “Jolene” – was much taller than the Holstein, whose neck tag read “Holly.” Dairy farmers know that the opposite is the case, that Holsteins are usually taller than Jerseys.

So much for truth in advertising! But there was also the fact that the two cows were walking around on their hind legs.       

Mascots Holly Holstein and Jolene Jersey pose for a photo at the Central Plains Dairy Expo.

Ok, so it was clear that the bovine buddies were humans masquerading as cows. But that sort of thing isn’t at the least bit unusual at the Central Plains Dairy Expo.  

My wife and I attended this year’s Expo to reconnect with some of our dairy industry friends. It seems like we always manage to pick up a few new friends along the way.

For example, one evening as we enjoyed a meal we randomly met Mike and Hollie Whittle, who dairy farm at Volga, Iowa. What are the odds that we would meet another couple from another Volga?

Mike and Hollie have four grown sons. “There’s one thing in common with training horses, dogs, and kids,” Mike said. “They don’t start to listen to you until they get tired.”

My wife remarked that Mike’s appearance was very similar to that of ranch hand Rip Wheeler on the hit TV series “Yellowstone”. She wasn’t wrong.

“It’s the other way around,” Mike grinned. “I had this look first. Rip copied me!”

While I jawboned with folks from the dairy industry, my wife and her friend Jane wandered the exhibit hall and began to pick up a few items of swag. It wasn’t long before collecting swag became their mission. They were as giddy as a pair of little girls flitting from booth to booth at the State Fair.

One of the most popular items at the Expo were tote bags. My wife soon had to get a tote bag to hold all of her tote bags.

She showed me some of the freebies she had scored. They included such things as a yardstick, lip balm, magnetic chip clips, a thumb drive, a large fingernail clippers, along with dozens of ballpoint pens and piles of scratch pads.

“We’re procuring office supplies,” my wife exclaimed proudly as she held out a fistful of free ballpoint pens.

“Fair enough,” I replied, “But what about that bundle of foam koozies? We would have to acquire a pretty serious drinking habit in order to make use of all of them.”

“You never know,” my wife replied as she and Jane resumed their freebie patrol. “A person should always be prepared.”

I’m not entirely sure what many of those giveaway items have to do with dairy farming. Although I suppose that the fingernail clippers could, in theory, be used to trim cows’ hooves.

“Jane and I are disappointed,” my wife reported later. “We heard that someone was giving away stress-relief cows. Have you seen any of them?”

I knew exactly what she meant. The cow in question is a foam rubber toy that fits in the palm of your hand. When you squeeze the cow, stress flows from you into the bantam bovine. The cow’s rear vent responds to this abrupt transfer of tension by manifesting what appears to be a very large and very painful hemorrhoid.

My wife wasn’t seeking this particular item for me, although having one would undoubtedly reduce my stress. She wanted the toy as a gift for our toddler grandson. But that could prove dangerous. What if, after squeezing the stress cow, he gets the idea that this also works on people? It would no longer be safe for me to lie on the floor when I play with him for fear that he might jump on my midsection to see if his theory is correct.

Nobody should go hungry at the Dairy Expo. This event offers numerous opportunities to enjoy free cheese, ice cream, and milk. There are few meals more pleasurable than a free grilled cheese sandwich that’s washed down by a carton of free, ice-cold chocolate milk.

My wife and I had a very pleasant time at the Dairy Expo. And let us know if you need a tote bag. We have a few extra.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.