Archive for Dairy Cattle Photo Ethics

Dairy Cattle Photography: Do You Really Think I am That Stupid?

Would you buy genetics from this heifer?


I would NOT!  However, it has nothing to do with her pedigree, because I don’t even know her pedigree.  The reason I would not buy genetics from this heifer is simply because I cannot trust that what I see in the picture is what I will actually get. You see this heifer, who looks for the most part to be a pretty decent heifer, actually has some major flaws that the current ethical standards of many photographers are more than willing to cover up.  The most major flaw that is blatant to the eye, when actually beside this heifer, is how weak loined she is.


Think about it. When was the last time you saw a dairy cow picture where the animal had a weak loin?  It doesn’t happen anymore.  In talking with a few photographers, they all say A) Is it really that bad? and B) ‘If I don’t do it`, breeders will not call me to take their pictures anymore.”  The answer to both these questions is “Do You Really Think I am That Stupid?”

“Is it really that bad?”

First, compare the two pictures below.  They are identical shots.  The only thing changed in the bottom picture is that she has had about 6 inches of hair added to the middle of her topline.  This is something that the show ring does not even find acceptable anymore.  Yes. I know you are going to say that this heifer is an extreme case. But also think about all the heifer pictures you see these days.  When was that last time you saw one with a weak loined animal?  Has the breed advanced so far that there is no longer an issue with loin strength?  Should all sires be ranked 7+ for loin strength?  I don’t think so.  Another question I ask is when was the last time you saw a 6+ month old calf that stands uphill?  And yet, you do see that in all their pictures that are taken these days.



“If I don’t do it breeders will not call me to take their pictures anymore.”

So I think most of you can see that it is pretty obvious how blatant this issue is.  So then why do you continue to support those that are working very hard to deceive you?  Each time you hire a photographer that finds this practice acceptable, or buy semen from a stud that supports these photographers, you are in a sense saying, “I am okay with being lied to.”

You see if a bull stud told you the sire you are using is a +18 (CDN) or +4 (US) for type but then only supplied a bull that was a +2 would, you be pissed?  But that is what you are doing when you are supporting these photographers who have no regard for ethical standards (Read more: Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed, No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even In Pictures and Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?).  Yes, of course, there are some that are trying their best in the current marketplace.  (Read more: Tarred With The Same Brush).  But, as a whole, the industry is turning a blind eye to this issue.  The funny thing is it is just like drugs in baseball (Read more: The Big Bad Wolf of the Dairy Industry, Does The Dairy Genetics Industry Have A Drug Problem? and Lance Armstrong, Drugs and the Dairy Industry), you can only turn a blind eye for so long before it comes back and gives the whole industry a black eye.

Stop the Laziness

While I was taking these pictures the other day, I discovered many new issues with current photography practices.  The biggest one is just plain old laziness.  They are too lazy to do it right.  “Photoshop saved careers.” they say.  I say “Photoshop has made you lazy.”  Now many photographers are not even bothering to take the effort to put up lights anymore.  That is photography 101. Always control the light.  Otherwise the quality of the image you get is crap. These are all little things that the human eye catches but you don’t see in most of the dairy cattle photography anymore.  That is because they are just too lazy to do it right.


It Is Possible To Do It Right

Now some would say, “Hey Andrew, if you think it is that easy, show me that you can do it?”  So I did. I went to the effort to take the picture of three nice heifers that were by no means big time show heifers.  They are just good quality heifers that needed a good quality picture.  (Please note – Although I have been on the team prepping hundreds of cattle for pictures, this is only the second time in my life of me actually taking the side shots.  The last time was over 10 years ago).

Fennema Steady Amber

Fennema Windbrook Abrielle

Fennema rose Royce Danish

The interesting part was that in doing these pictures I found that I actually had to take more hair off than I had to add.  I could have done it with the clippers before the photo-shoot, but chose not to as these are also 4-H calves and they have their achievement day in two weeks’ time.  The other part I noticed is, you don’t need to jack their front ends up 2 feet and wrench their necks like a chicken.  Simply put a small block under their front legs and away you go.  So you say, “It’s easier to do it the way they are currently doing it.”  I say it’s easier to put up a couple of lights and away you go.  You get a better quality picture that the viewers can appreciate and more importantly trust.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

What I am saying is not new.  We all have known it to be true for years.  The problem is, instead of taking action to make change, we are all comfortable to sit back and be lied to.  Well guess what?  I am tired of being lied to.  I am tired of being slapped in the face every time one of the photographers thinks they are pulling a “fast one” on everyone and being lazy to boot.  Instead of compromising your ethics, I say get off your “butt” and do it right.  Because “Do You Really Think That We Are All That Stupid?”

To read more about this check out The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

If you believe that there is a need for a ethical standard in marketing dairy cattle genetics please like and share this post.

Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed

The art of dairy cattle photography has certainly changed over the past 15 years.  With the introduction of digital cameras and advancements in programs like Adobe Photoshop, there is no question the industry is forever changed.  The problem is, with all these changes, there has been no one to establish or regulate a code of ethics to ensure that the animal you see in pictures is the same animal you are investing in when you buy embryos, progeny or semen from them.

I cannot tell you the number of times breeders have told us that the cow they saw in the picture looked nothing like the animal in real life.  While this non-reality has become acceptable for super models, that should not be the case with dairy cattle photos.  In the fashion industry you are not buying the genetics the super model has to offer, but rather the clothing she is wearing.  That’s a key difference.  A difference that many need to remember when taking and editing dairy cattle photos.  (Read more: Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist? And Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle Genetics) Sure we all want the animal to look her best but that means she still looks like herself and not some other animal all together.

The following are three techniques that many livestock photographers use that “most” would consider acceptable and yet they really do a great deal to make the animal look considerably different than her true genetic self.

Addition to Toplines

While photographers have been adding hair, foam, tape, etc. to cows’ toplines for years, programs like Photoshop make it much easier to do and even harder to detect.  (Read more: Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far)  The following is an example of just how much the typical picture has had added.  The light overlay (Fade) is the amount that was present in the final picture and the dark is the cow’s natural self.

topline hair add

Not a big deal some would say, but there is no question that this adds about 3-5 points on loin strength, 1-2 points on rump and drastically enhances general appearance.  It is being done so often these days that it actually catches your eye when it’s not done.  This is very much a FALSE representation of what an animal’s actually genetic potential is.

Over Exposure of Photos

To hide this type of work many photographers will over expose (brighten) the white sections of the photos or burn (darken) the black sections of an animal so the average eye cannot catch what has been done.  Here is an example of a cow that has had this one. The following is a picture comparing her topline as it appears in the final picture and  the same topline with the exposure corrected.

hair add lms

A very flat loined heifer that would have looked very common in her picture ended up looking much better.  In measuring the proportions of this animal we estimate that this animal has had 6-7 inches of “hair” added. The interesting point is that this animal is classified VG-85 and yet in her picture looks more like 88 or even 89 points.  A big difference especially in an animal that many breeders could potentially be purchasing genetics from and, more importantly, semen from her sons.

This not only makes a difference in their toplines, but also in the cleanliness of their legs and other parts.  By over or under exposing details as needed you can greatly hide their flaws.  Some photographers comment that since they didn’t “edit” the conformation of the cow, it’s acceptable.  By hiding the flaws with these techniques, they are greatly misrepresenting the animal’s natural appearance and genetic potential.


Have you ever noticed that the pictures you take with your own camera, even your phone camera, have more clarity than the ones that are taken by most professional photographers who have cameras and equipment costing thousands of dollars?  Why do you think that is?  Typically this is because of the Photoshop skills of the photographer.  To make all these “typical” edits and still maintain that level of clarity requires a great deal of skill.  Since most of the photographers are just that photographers and not graphic designers, that is an area that they have not mastered yet.  The easiest way to account for this is to reduce the clarity so that some parts of the picture are very clear and others are not.  Here is an example of the clarity of what a typical professional dairy cattle photographer’s picture should look like.  It is taken with the same level of equipment, and has only had slight color correction and no exposure adjustments to the animal.

Woodsview Excitation Tracy (udder ring)

How many professional photographers’ photos look this clear?  They should. They easily have the equipment to achieve this or even greater results.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there is no doubt programs like Photoshop make it so that anything is possible, should it not be the job of the photographer to make sure the image they produce is the best possible representation of that animal  and not just what they think will sell the most embryos or semen?

To read more about this check out The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

If you believe that there is a need for a ethical standard in marketing dairy cattle genetics please like and share this post.

Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct

The call for ethics in dairy cattle marketing has never been louder. With the increased power of programs like Adobe Photoshop, the ability to edit and manipulate pictures and ads has never been easier. For this reason, the Bullvine in combination with other dairy cattle marketers is pleased to introduce The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct.

What is the Code?

  • The Code sets out specific standards of conduct for participants in the dairy cattle marketing industry in relation to individuals, organizations and consumers and serves as a benchmark in the highest level of ethics showing to all breeders that they can buy with confidence that the images, ads, and promotional materials they are seeing are of the highest ethical standard.
  • The requirements of the Code are based on common sense and are matters of fairness and honesty. The Code not only promotes ethical behavior but also is intended to serve as a point of reference for Members to ensure they follow acceptable best practices and ethical guidelines.

The Objectives of the Code :

  • To ensure business and consumers have access to the product and service information they need to make informed accurate choices and decisions
  • To promote a culture among members of conducting their businesses fairly, honestly, ethically and in accordance with best practices; and
  • To increase business and breeder confidence in doing business with dairy cattle genetic companies and breeders.

Why Is The Code Necessary?

  • The world dairy genetics market is big business. No longer is it possible for breeders to personally see the animals they are looking to invest in. Because we now operate at a distance rather than face-to-face with fellow breeders, dairy genetics organizations and breeders must place greater emphasis on establishing breeder confidence and trust. This is especially true in dairy cattle livestock photos, where tools like Adobe Photoshop have taken the potential of digital editing and photo manipulation to completely new levels.
  • The future expansion of dairy marketing depends on the players conducting their business in a fair, honest and ethical manner in dealing with other businesses and with consumers. Only by doing so can the reputation of the industry be enhanced so that breeder demand will continue to grow.
Programs like Adobe Photoshop have made it possible for breeders to tell what is real and what is fake.

Programs like Adobe Photoshop have made it possible for breeders to tell what is real and what is fake.

To Whom Does This Code Apply?

  • Livestock Photographers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Artificial Insemination Companies
  • Dairy Cattle Genetics Companies
  • Dairy Cattle Breeders
The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO
Program members can use this logo to show that they uphold to the standards of this program.

What are the benefits of membership?

  • With breeder confidence in the images and ads they see at an all-time low, the ability to display to breeders that your marketing and genetics meet the highest ethical standards is a great way to reassure them that you value your relationship with them.
  • All members of this program will have the ability to place the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct (DMCC) logo on their images and ads, showing all who view those ads/images that they can buy with confidence knowing that the decisions they make based on these ads and images meet the highest standards in the industry.
  • Members will be entitled to exclusive training. That is correct, as part of the program there will be training from some of the greatest experts in the industry today. In such areas as:
    • Photoshop and digital post production for dairy cattle marketers
    • Video and post production for dairy cattle marketers
    • Advanced photo and video capture best practices
    • Dairy cattle ad design concepts and best practices

What are the penalties for violation of the code?

For all those who sign up for the program and then do not adhere to its code of conduct the follow actions will occur:

  • Original photos must be provided upon request
  • All claims must be able to be substantiated with factual proof/documentation.
  • There will be an appeal process where said individuals/organizations can defend their case against being expelled.
  • If it is deemed that those photos/images/claims do not comply with the program, said member will be publicly expelled from the program.

Who is responsible for running the program?

  • Initially, the Bullvine and its agents will be responsible for the development and enforcement of the program for a 1 year period. After that, there will be the development of a Council for Ethical Dairy Cattle Marketing that will take over the development and encouragement of ethical practices, with the Bullvine supporting and administering the program.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While this Code of Conduct is obviously in the early stages of development, we trust that photographers, graphic designers and other members of the dairy marketing community will take time to think about where the industry is headed and why now is the time for the establishment of best practices and ethical guidelines that help grow business for all community members.

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

If you believe that there is a need for a ethical standard in marketing dairy cattle genetics please like and share this post.

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