Hundreds of dairy farmers are gathering in Springfield today-Saturday for the sixth annual Heart of America Dairy Expo presented by Hiland Dairy Foods.

The expo features nationally known speakers, producer panels and the largest dairy-specific trade show in the southern Midwest at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center.

“We are moving forward during a very challenging time of economic conditions caused by depressed milk prices at the farm,” said expo chairman and dairy farmer Ted Sheppard of Cabool.

Sheppard, who serves as president of the Missouri Dairy Association, official host of the expo, said the program will provide attendees with new directions on dairy nutrition, milk production, dairy policy and consumer communications.

It includes the new feature of an FFA Ag Career Day at 3 p.m. Thursday that is free and open to all FFA chapters and 4-H youth in Missouri and surrounding states.

“We follow that with our Thursday evening grand opening Buffet reception at 6 p.m. and an early bird seminar in the trade show," Sheppard said. "After the meal, Vallery Eisenmann of the American National Insurance Company will address 'How to get the most from your insurance dollar.'"

The program begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday with "Advancements in Forage Digestibility" with Rich Bennek, Mycogen Seeds dairy market development manager. Following Bennek will be Dr. Max Hawkins of Alltech discussing “Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Healthy Cows and Performance. Rounding out the morning program is Dr. Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois, who will cover the “Roles of Minerals and Vitamins in Dairy Rations” sponsored by Multimin USA.

Also on Friday, a pork chop luncheon, sponsored by Hiland Dairy Foods and the Missouri Pork Association, will feature Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn followed by a keynote presentation by Dr. Mark Stephenson of the University of Wisconsin on “The Changing Landscape of Dairy: Regional Perspectives” sponsored by Central Life Sciences.

After lunch, attendees will hear from a dairy farmer panel discussing “Farmers Communicating to the Public” sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association. Another dairy farmer panel follows on milk quality moderated by Dr. Scott Poock of the University of Missouri and sponsored by MFA Inc., Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and ST Genetics.

The expo also includes the annual meetings of the Missouri Dairy Association, Missouri Holstein Association, Missouri Brown Swiss Association, Missouri Guernsey Breeders Association, Missouri Jersey Cattle Club, Midwest Milking Shorthorn and the Missouri Ayrshire Association.

“Last year we drew almost 500 attendees from 15 states," says Dave Drennan, expo sales manager and executive director for the Missouri Dairy Association. “Registration is free for dairy farmers and their families with a nominal registration fee for allied industry representatives. All dairy farmers and allied industry, regardless of state, are invited to attend." An exhibit hall will include more than 65 exhibits and equipment.

For more information or to make reservations, visit

The Heart of America Dairy Expo is one of many group events brought to Springfield through the efforts of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit marketing organization dedicated to boosting the local economy through growth in travel and tourism. Learn more about the CVB by calling 417-881-5300 or visit