West Perth native experiences World Dairy Expo in different light

Eight 4-H members from across Canada to attend the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin were Iain MacLellan (back row, left), Jennika Fuller, Cassie Allen, Ally Spielmacher and Derrick Knill. Front row (left) Emily McKenna Ayles, Sarah Wilson and Cynthia Campbell. The cow statue is Miss Madison and she's a trademark of the World Dairy Expo found outside the barns on the Expo grounds. SUBMITTED

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Derrick Knill made his third visit to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month, and it quite likely won’t be his last.

The RR 1 Bornholm native, in his third year of study at the University of Guelph, was one of eight senior 4-H members from dairy clubs across Canada to be chosen to attend the show.

“It was great … amazing actually,” Knill said. “It was so much fun. I got to meet so many awesome people and make so many great connections that will help me out in the future. It was a fantastic experience. I’m really thankful to 4-H Canada, Saputo and Armstrong cheese for making this opportunity available.”

Knill, 20, the son of Rick Knill and Deb Josephson, had to express his views on the importance of youth leaders and youth involvement in the dairy industry through a 500-word essay to qualify for the competition, organized by 4-H Canada.

“4-H is an organization that has definitely changed my life,” he said, who’s been involved for half his life, and intends to make the most of the two years he has left. “It’s been really good to me and I encourage people to look for those opportunities and step out of their comfort zone and give it a shot.”

Two others from Ontario joined Knill on the trip, held Oct. 1-5, Cassie Allen and Ally Spielmacher; plus four others from Nova Scotia and another from Prince Edward Island.

Thanks to their skills, point of view and determination, they were selected to represent the 4-H community in Canada at the largest dairy cow event in North America as well as a tour of key local agricultural attractions, including the multi-generational Crave brothers farm.

“It was pretty cool to see that, and how self-sufficient it was,” he said, noting that they operate their own cheese factory from the 1100 cows they milk, and have bio-digesters that collects methane from the manure which they use to create electricity. They also separate the solids from the digesters and once dried out, use for bedding.

These young dairy leaders had the unique opportunity to engage and network with industry leaders, mentors and employers who share the same passion for the dairy industry, further their knowledge and broaden their perspectives through discussions with experts, as well as express their leadership and enthusiasm for the industry being showcased.

‘‘This competition was designed as a unique learning opportunity for 4-H members as well as a platform for them to explore careers and express their leadership skills at an international conference,’’ said Shannon Benner, 4-H Canada CEO. ‘‘This is a prime example of how we empower 4-H youth to be responsible, caring and contributing leaders committed to positively impacting their communities across Canada.”

4-H Canada partnered with Armstrong Cheese, and before their departure the group had a chance to tour the Saputo plant in Tavistock, which Knill found interesting.

He said one of his personal highlights of the trip was a chance to show during the youth showmanship competition on the “coloured” shavings.

“I’ve done it before but it’s always awesome to be able to show down there,” he said.

Knill also enjoyed the announcement of the cow supreme champion which he said was like a Hollywood production.

Knill attended the Expo previously as a Grade 12 student during the 50th anniversary of the event, then went as a member of the Ontario Dairy Judging team in his first year university. This time, he said, it was a lot more interconnecting with youth and his 4-H connection.

Knill said someday he’d like to have his own herd of cows, and to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a veterinarian.

He’s also likely to return to the Dairy Expo as there’s so much to see and do every time he attends.

“Absolutely, it’s huge,” he said. “There’s new stuff every year, from new farms to tour, trade show vendors, and the cows are always amazing.”

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