Ken Schmitt, a farmer in the Chippewa County town of Howard, showed off Tuff Built cattle handling chutes Tuesday at the 55th annual Eau Claire Farm Show. The pens, weighing 1 ton each and costing between $2,500 and $7,500, are used to hold beef cattle in place while giving the animals ear tags and vaccinations, trimming horns or performing artificial insemination.
Schmitt said several dozen people stopped at his exhibit Tuesday, which is exactly why he made sure to be part of the annual farm show.
“This show always has nice traffic,” Schmitt said. “It’s so when farmers come out, they can see what’s available. There is no substitute for seeing it in person, getting to ‘kick the tires,’ as opposed to looking at literature or watching it online.”
While Schmitt said he hadn’t locked down any sales by midday, he is expecting callbacks in coming days based on the interest he saw at the show.
“Farmers are looking despite the low (dairy and crop) prices,” Schmitt said. “It’s priced right for a 20-cow operation; it gets the job done.”
Brad Lewison from Spring Green-based Chem-Star Dairy Sanitation said his company always makes the three-hour trek from near Madison to this show. The company markets and distributes the hoses and equipment that are attached to cow udders for the milking process.
“We have dealers in the area,” Lewison said. “There is decent traffic here. We’re happy with the face-to-face contacts with the people we’re talking to. We’re not really here to sell anything today — we’re making them aware of what we have through our dealers.”
Lewison said the hoses, dubbed inflations, wear out easily.
“Some farmers replace them every two weeks, depending on how many cows they milk,” Lewison said.
Greg Wilcox of Chetek, a direct sales representative for Nebraska-based Rob See Co., worked a booth Tuesday, telling farmers about the company’s corn, soybeans and alfalfa seeds.
“We’re the fourth largest independent seed company in the United States,” Wilcox said. “We have to get our brand spread out. We’re mainly a western (states) brand, and now we’re expanding into Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.”
Wilcox said the farm show was a perfect way to meet potential clients.
“The first step is to get your name out there — it’s all about relationships,” he said. “It’s a good medium to get yourself in front of a large audience. It’s been a really good crowd; it’s fun to see people too.”
Gary Leach, 69, farms 500 acres with 120 cows south of Menomonie. He attended the show with his 22-year-old grandson, Zach Leach, who works with him on the farm.
“It’s something we always come to, just to look at everything,” Gary Leach said. “There is a lot to look at. It’s a lot of the same things every year, but you see the new stuff.”
Joel Kling of Hixton brought his 4-year-old son, Layne, who enjoyed checking out the little tractors on display. Kling said his father and brother both own farms near Taylor. He tries to attend a farm show every year.
“It’s the farming aspect — I like seeing the new things,” Kling said. “It’s the new technology. You can do so much more than you could in the past, like having the GPS equipment in the cab (of the tractor).”
Cindy Heintz of Eau Claire was attending her first-ever farm show. She lives in the city, but her husband works on a farm.
“It was just curiosity — we’re here to look around,” Heintz said. “The auction is a cool thing, raising money for the kids. It’s nice to see the young people getting involved (in farming).”
Heintz said she did look at an exhibitor who provides gutters for houses. She came away impressed with the whole show.
“It’s the camaraderie of the people,” she said.