World Dairy Expo is the place where the dairy industry meets. Much in the same vein, the National 4-H Dairy Conference is the place where leading dairy youth from across North America can come to interact with one another and build industry bridges that will last well into the future.
The first 4-H Dairy Conference materialized in 1954 after Guy C. Noble proposed to the International Dairy Show Committee that a program should be specifically designed for 4-H youth involved in dairy achievement projects. Several state 4-H leaders and other Extension staff members, and an American Guernsey Cattle Club Secretary developed the first agenda in 1955. Eighty-five 4-H members and their leaders representing Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin gathered for the first conference at Chicago’s historic Conrad Hilton Hotel.
The educational strength of the program was apparent from the very beginning. High standards were set at that first meeting that have been maintained in the years to follow. Respected authorities representing all areas of the dairy industry were present as speakers and for informal question-answer sessions. Tours of dairy processing plants, the Chicago Stockyards, numerous exhibits and the International Dairy Show broadened delegates’ knowledge. The early days even featured a Dairy Show Parade down the Windy City’s famous State Street.
After 15 years in Chicago, the 16th Annual 4-H Dairy Conference opened in Madison, Wisconsin in October 1970 in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo. Madison, famous for its four lakes, scenic beauty, long-standing tradition as the state capitol, and excellent University of Wisconsin College of Ag and Life Sciences, has become the official meeting place for the National 4-H Dairy Conference.