In search of new ideas and solutions, not just for today but for tomorrow, too, more than 20,000 producers, employees and pork professionals attended the 2018 World Pork Expo, June 6-8. Presented by the National Pork Producers Council, Expo also welcomed nearly 1,000 international guests from 35 countries to Des Moines.

Marking its 30th year, the 2018 Expo presented a record number of trade-show exhibitors, hospitality tents, educational seminars and live hogs in the Junior National show. The Iowa State Fairgrounds provided the perfect backdrop for a festive summer evening during MusicFest, giving visitors the opportunity to share fun and fellowship. A long-time highlight, the Big Grill — staffed by Iowa’s Tama County Pork Producers Association — served up more than 10,000 free pork lunches over the event’s three days.

“It’s hard to believe Expo has been around for 30 years,” says Jim Heimerl, NPPC president and producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “Just as the U.S. pork industry has evolved over the years, so too has Expo. Today it is an excellent venue to visit with a number of pork professionals and share insights in a short period of time. I hope there are many more Expos to come.”

More exhibits, more innovations

Topping the list of priorities for Expo attendees was the world’s largest pork-specific trade show, and this year’s offering set a record. The addition of the Jacobson Exhibition Center and an expanded outdoor exhibit space pushed the trade show beyond 360,000 square feet. A mix of first-time and long-time exhibitors from more than 500 U.S. and international companies displayed the latest products, services and technologies for pork production.

A record 60 hospitality tents provided pork producers and their employees an opportunity to meet with allied industry representatives in a relaxed setting.

Trade show exhibitors were pleased not just with the number, but the quality of Expo’s attendees. “They are very business oriented, very professional,” says Kevin Hermesch, strategic account manager, Provimi North America. “It used to be that one person did it all within a pork production system. Today, you have experts within a specific production area, and they have different needs and expectations.”

Expo provides an opportunity to meet multiple people within a production company, from managers to finance specialists, over a couple of days, Hermesch points out. A 30-year Expo exhibitor, Provimi provides nutritional services to pork producers.

He reports that, despite some market uncertainty lingering in the background, producer attitudes remained positive. “They tend to focus on what’s in their control and where they need to go in the future,” Hermesch adds. “That means looking for ways to get better, be more efficient and improve the bottom line.”

Rick Knauer, national technical sales manager with SKOV, echoes that sentiment. “The customers and atmosphere of Expo have been great,” he says. “Producers are looking for solutions, new technologies and what they need for the future.”

A Danish company, SKOV provides energy-efficient climate control solutions and weighing options for pork production systems; 2018 marked its second year exhibiting at Expo. With a presence in 87 countries, Knauer particularly likes Expo’s link to international visitors.

Another plus is the training and education opportunities that Expo provides. SKOV sponsored a business seminar on barn climate solutions. “We’re excited to come back next year,” Knauer says. His message for producers who don’t attend Expo: “You’re missing out. There are more than enough companies here to find what you need for your business.”

Barn-busting Junior National Show

The vibrant World Pork Expo Junior National continued its steady growth, with nearly 1,200 youth, representing 32 states. That compares to 1,050 exhibitors from 32 states in 2017. Also breaking records were the number of live hogs exhibited — 2,800 head — an increase of 300 hogs from 2017’s record. To accommodate the ever-expanding show, the events began on Monday, June 4, and ran through the end of the week. Hosted by the National Junior Swine Association and Team Purebred, the Junior National combines educational activities such as a Skillathon and Youth PQA Plus® certification, with swine judging, live-hog competitions and showmanship.

On Friday, June 8, the open show featured more than 760 crossbred and purebred boars and gilts. Junior exhibitors were eligible to join other swine breeders for the competition and the opportunity to be selected for the breeding stock sale on Saturday morning, June 9. Results for the open shows and sales for National Swine Registry breeds can be found online.

Education, networking and entertainment

Pork producers are known for their continuous quest for information and ideas, which made the many educational and business seminars an Expo bonus. This year, pork producers and their employees could select from 20 free seminars. In addition to educational presentations, the sessions provided an opportunity for open dialogue and interaction with the presenters.

Presented by allied industry, the business seminar topics ranged from consumer trends to production-data analysis to maximizing vaccination and disease programs to environmental solutions inside and outside the hog barn and more. PORK Academy seminars, presented by Pork Checkoff, addressed such topics as sow longevity and productivity, antibiotic resistance and responsible use, and domestic and international pork marketing strategies. There also was an update on the industry’s Secure Pork Supply Plan, which is designed to address pork producers’ needs in the event that the United States faces a market-limiting foreign animal disease. Market outlook and weather presentations rounded out the educational events and provided information that producers can use for long-term strategic planning.

Each year, World Pork Expo offers pork producers and others a place to meet and visit with a wide range of people who share a common interest — to produce the world’s best pork products,” Heimerl says. “There is always something to learn and insights to share.”