Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Effort Behind Beautiful Cow Photos

Great dairy cow photos don’t just happen; they are created by a team and include lots of hard work! Growing up on and around registered Holstein farms, picturing was no big deal. Didn’t everyone spend at least one day a year primping their best cows and working tirelessly to get them to stand just right?

Recently I had the chance to spend a day out of the office working with a great team of individuals to capture images of several dams and daughters of GENEX bulls. For one of our team members, it was her first experience picturing. She also had limited dairy experience. This got me thinking about what dairy cattle picturing must look like to the uninitiated, so I grabbed a few photos of my own to help illustrate the process.

Dairy cattle picturing starts several days before the photographer shows up. The cows must be tied up with a halter and full-body clipped (similar to a buzz haircut on a human). This process also helps introduce the cow to close contact with humans and a deviation from their normal schedule. I wasn’t there the days they did this, so sorry, no photos!

Upon arrival on picturing day, the animal must again be caught with a halter and washed to remove any bedding and/or manure from her hair. A gentle soap is used to prevent skin irritation. She is then towel dried to remove a majority of the water, followed by blow drying.
This might also be a good time to discuss the bucket person. The bucket person’s job is super important, once the animal has been washed. The bucket person watches the animals for any sign of defecation. If the tail goes up, the bucket person must jump into action with the bucket to catch the manure in a straw-lined bucket. He or she must then use the paper towels to wipe away any remaining manure. This prevents any splatter from getting the cow dirty again.

So, back to the primping, which we call fitting. The next steps include taking small cordless clippers (just like your hair stylist or barber uses) and clipping any hair that may have been missed, as well as the udder, feet and legs. Sprays and powders are applied to make the whites white and the blacks shine. Fly spray is also used to prevent those pesky insects from bothering the cow while she is posed.
Then a leather show halter is put on, and the pretty lady is ready for her photo shoot. Unfortunately cows don’t know how we want them to pose, so here’s where the team becomes really important. One person is needed to move each foot into position, someone holds the tail still, another is required to make noise to get the animal to look in the right direction and perk up her ears and of course, someone holds the halter. Some of the cows respond well, and some are more of a challenge.
Every cow responds differently to the noise, so there are plenty of tricks, such as a yummy dish of grain or a tiny stuffed cow on a long pole (can be seen in the background).

Then there is the conductor of this well-tuned orchestra, and we have a great one, Sarah Damrow. Sarah has a wonderful way of providing quick, concise instructions as the animal is being posed to make her look her very best. It is Sarah’s attention to detail that is the difference between success and failure. She is patient, a terrific teacher and great at what she does!

And that’s how we get fabulous cow photos for use in advertisements, sire directories and other promotional pieces!