Archive for Dairy Cattle Marketing

Dairy Breeders – Stop the Insanity

Blame it on low milk prices, or genomics or whatever you want, the dairy genetics industry has changed drastically in the past ten years.  Gone are the days where a sweet young cow scoring VG-85 as a two-year-old was something you would run a print ad in a magazine, and fellow breeders would be calling you up asking about her.  Not only has what breeders are interested in changed, thanks to genomics, etc. but so has how people buy.  Where and how breeders show, share information and buy has dramatically shifted.  However, most breeders are still trying to advertise and wasting their money on marketing that no longer delivers a return. Simple question to you, when was the last time you can directly attribute a sale to an ad you ran in a print magazine?   As Einstein says doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results is the definition of Insanity.   My fellow dairy breeders it’s time to stop the Insanity.

There is no question the dairy genetics marketplace is a tough game just now.  With AI companies dominating the genomics marketplace (Read more: Should A.I. Companies Own Females?, Why Good Business for A.I. Companies Can Mean Bad Business For Dairy Breeders, and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry) and low milk prices killing the market for good dairy cattle (Read more: Who Killed The Market For Good Dairy Cattle?) things are terrible.  These changes and challenges are not limited to the genetics game either; advertising has its own difficulties.  It seems like every day you hear reports about how one print magazine has gone bankrupt, or another one has staff that is leaving to take jobs elsewhere cause they can not pay the bills anymore and even fake announcements about new staff who have actually been working for the publication for years.  This does not happen in a medium that is thriving. 

There is a simple rule in marketing, get your message to where your ideal customer is.  Thanks to Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, most breeders no longer use out of date print magazines as their #1 source for information.  On any given week more dairy breeders are online searching for the latest show results, genomic test results or classification highlights than read a print magazine in a whole month.  It’s simple to explain why digital news is faster and less expensive.   It also is much cheaper to advertise in digital, hence why so many advertisers are shifting their dollars from print to digital.  The rise of digital media in preference to print comes down to four key factors: cost, flexibility, accountability, and demographics.

  • Print is Expensive
    Beyond space costs, creating print ads can also require significant In contrast to online ads are relatively inexpensive or, in the case of social media, often free.
  • Print isn’t flexible
    There are fixed closing dates for materials, and once in print, the message cannot be changed until the next issue. In contrast, digital media is much more flexible.
  • Print results are tough to track.
    In comparison to click-throughs, open email rates and a host of other digital metrics, print’s ability to provide ROI data is limited without well-planned campaign execution, which often requires an expensive ad agency to set up for you.
  • Print does not attract many breeders under 40
    In this age group, someone put a cell phone in his or her hands when they were 9, a laptop when they entered middle school. Print is not their media of choice or experience. 

In comparison to spending thousands of on prints ads, a simple ad on a Facebook page with a spend of under $50 can reach over 108,000 dairy breeders in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Colombia, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand and the US (Based on metrics provided by Facebook) that is more than double any reach of a print ad.  Now I am sure you say, but there are thousands of fake accounts, and yes there is, that is why you need to create target markets such as the countries listed above instead of just spending to put up a bunch of fake metrics (Read more: The Truth about Dairy Genetics Publications Facebook Fan Page Statistics and  The fakebook – Our Secret is Exposed).  Facebook marketing is not just a simple as “post it, and they will come.”  Just like any effective marketing plan you need to have a strategy that identifies who you ideal customer is, and what motivates them to spend their hard-earned money. 

To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide, and once you are up and running be sure to check out The Top 10 Dairy Breeder Facebook Fan Pages and Why They are Successful as well as How to Make the Facebook 10 Most Wanted List.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Let’s face it; times are tough in the dairy industry just now.   But It’s in these tough times that we can make some of the most impactful decisions.  That is very true when it comes to promoting your dairy farm to the world. There are more dairy breeders on Facebook than read all the dairy print publications combined.  Take a look at who is buying, where are they spending their time?  According to Facebook statistics, 50% of dairy breeders log in every day.  Most cannot go without at least checking their Facebook page once or twice a day. That is nearly 1 hour per day, per user.  That is longer than it takes most dairy farmers to read most monthly dairy magazines.  The message is simple: “In these tough times don’t advertise for the sake of advertising.  Market to win!”

How to Make the Facebook 10 Most Wanted List

There are numerous good reasons why you don’t want your name to be on a MOST WANTED criminals list.   But today we are going to talk about 10 good reasons to work hard to get your dairy farm to be on a MOST WANTED FACEBOOK list. To be a Facebook Most Wanted you need to identified, recognized and sought after. Let’s look at ways you can use this form of social media to capture positive attention.

  1. Post an Action Photo
    Share photos of your employees in action. Show photos of changing seasonal activities around the farm. It’s especially good to show staff as they handle the animals, from calving to milking. Get your readers in on the action. Post two or three and ask for readers to “like” the selection or choose their favorite. When a new calf is born, ask for suggestions for names.  Give them the parameters you’re working in.  For example, the name must start with letter “M” or fit in with the “Domino Family”.
  2. Look Behind-the-Scenes
    Quite often people think of just one activity on the dairy farm, and that is usually milking. You can post pictures that show how your business operates behind the scenes. This lets them see your office or shots of the variety of people who come to the farm and gives them a more dynamic understanding of how full each day is. When they see the large number of people you interact with: veterinarians, consultants, numerous feed suppliers and of course, the big tanker trucks that pick up the milk – they will gain an appreciation for how much organization and logistics it takes to get milk from the stable to the table.
  3. Show the Funny Side of the Farm
    Many non-farmers have romanticized ideas of how easy, simple and bucolic life on a dairy farm must be. We all know that there is a lot of hard work involved in this 24/7 career, but there are also opportunities to acknowledge the lighter, brighter and fun side of working with animals on a farm.  The previously mentioned animal shots are a start to winning engaged followers, but many farm families are also creative in the way they bring togetherness and fun to their routine.  Picnics in the field.  Shots of future farmers with their favorite “pet” calf.  Family conversations taking place anywhere on the farm, from haylofts to manure pits to leaning on the top rails to look at animals.   I am fully convinced that this is how our family learned to look at life “from both sides of the fence.” Life on the farm is hard work but it is never boring or dull, and there’s always room for laughter and fun.  This humanizes food producers and is something that will benefit us too as we count — and post — our bovine blessings!
  4. “Let’s Talk!”
    Sometimes when we feel that dairy farmers are understood; we bemoan the fact that we don’t have time to defend ourselves against what seems like constant criticism. Rather than worry about what we aren’t doing right, by using Facebook we have the opportunity to start a conversation — or a monolog — about what we’re doing right.  What we are hoping for is to engage our audience in affirming dairying as a business.  Instead of just seeking for a “like” when you give a status update, give your non-farming viewers an opportunity to share their perspective.  Instead of “I’m off to the barn for milking at 4m.” you can say, “Headed out for the 4 a.m. milking and ask, “What do you do to get your morning started right?”
  5. “Can you help me?”
    People love to answer questions. Even more, than that they like to help solve problems. When you are mystified about non-dairy concerns, you can honestly ask for clarification. It’s a great way to build trust.  There is no need to whine or be negative about bad press, but as you build Facebook followers, you will naturally have some questions raised about your animal care of farm practices.  If you deal with the questions openly and honestly, you will have readers who become more invested and engaged in understanding what dairy farming involves.
  6. “Show Off Your Employees”
    Whether it’s a small family farm or very large dairy production center, another great way to show your personality is to show off your employees. Post pictures of your calf care team.  Post an interview with your herd manager.  If you are installing something new … make and post a video diary of your staff getting the job done.  The best thing about this kind of content is that it humanizes dairying and contributes to the image of teamwork between employees and animals that makes everything flow smoothly.
  7. “Share a Pat on the Back!”
    Another facet of recognizing the human side of your dairy team involves congratulating them! This includes simple birthday and anniversary congrats but also recognizes extra-curricular studies or certification that your staff earns, as thy continue to grow their dairy strengths and abilities.  This one small pat on the back – shared openly on Facebook – builds both self-esteem and teamwork.  A simple “way to go” actually goes a long way toward building for the future.
  8. Keep Calm and React to Controversies Promptly
    In this 21st Century, there is always something controversial going on. Sometimes it’s not directly related to dairying, and you can comfortably piggyback your opinions on the news by offering your viewpoint.  This can generate a lot of buzz – especially if your position is an alternative one. But, while this may cause arguments, it is still more comfortable than when the controversy directly involves you or your farm. When you are in the middle of controversy, the key is to react promptly and honestly. But don’t just say your opinion. Support your position with facts and evidence.  Keep calm.  Don’t over-react.  Accept responsibility if that is called for. Things happen. The goal is to keep the conversation open. Name calling and character assassination can destroy all the good that you have been trying to build.
  9. Give Testimonials
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if all our hard work earned us those lovely little testimonial pieces that scroll by on Facebook news pages? We may not have the celebrity status for this, but there is nothing stopping us from being a promoter of our fellow dairy breeders.  What is surprising about the idea of recognizing with photos and/or videos of what other dairy people are doing, is the fact that so few people take some time to do it.  At the end of the day, the best promotion comes from the stories we share – and that get shared — about the great job we are doing. Is your dairy neighbor generous with his time in leading 4-H?   Has another local dairy farm consistently topped the production or management lists?  Do you know someone who donates produce, time or finances to those who are less fortunate?  Facebook is excellent at giving a face to the heroes among us.
  10. A Facebook Farm Tour is Worth a 1000 Words
    It goes without saying that those farms which have the staff and time to give tours unanimously report a growing level of support from the public who takes part in the opportunity. When non-farmers are able to get face to face with dairy staff, they rarely leave without a heightened understanding of the passion that inspires dairy folks. For the rest of us, Facebook is the answer. Sometimes all you have to do is answer the recurring questions with a picture or quick video. The main thing here is to engage with what people want to know. It’s a close as you can get to a personal meeting. Use your virtual tour as a way to open the door to ongoing trust and communication.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Try some of these ten methods to get your Farm Facebook page on the most sought after lists. It’s good for the dairy industry when farm Facebook postings become Most Wanted. To miss this opportunity would be a crime.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



The Truth about Dairy Genetics Publications Facebook Fan Page Statistics

Over the past few months, there has been a consistent theme to the conversation I have with many breeders about their marketing efforts. They know that they need to “leverage the power of social media” in order to get their genetic offerings exposed to the world. But they are finding it hard to do. Then they see Dairy Genetic publications getting thousands of likes and shares, but they are all from countries that will not be buying genetics from them. No wonder they get discouraged. In order to get to the bottom of this problem, we decided to take a closer look at this issue.

In a trend that we had been noticing ourselves lately, our two largest competitors (based on Facebook likes) had been growing significantly and getting likes and shares on content that, for the most part, had no viral attributes.

To get to the bottom of this, we decided to take a look at the top 10 posts for each of these publications and analyze where these shares were coming from. What we found was that for these two publications that have over 40,000 likes on their pages, they got over 70% of their likes on these posts from individuals that were not directly connected to the dairy genetics industry.

This had us wondering “How could this happen?” So we then went and looked at where each of these pages got most of their followers from using Facebooks targeting tools. The following is what we found.

For Publication A, a western Canadian based dairy genetics magazine we found that they received over 33% of their Facebook followers from Asia (India, Pakistan, etc.) and their 2nd largest content for followers was South America.

publication a
For Publication B, a US based Holstein publication, we found that almost half their followers come from South America.

publication b
We found these proportions very different to our readership and worldwide dairy genetic market share, so we decided to look at what our proportions where, and found the following.(Read more: The fakebook – Our Secret is Exposed)


So then we started to look at how this could happen and found a potential cause for this problem: Facebook Promoted Posts. Facebook has significantly y changed how often a post on a Fan Page reaches into each follower’s news stream. A couple of years ago, pretty much every post made it into follower’s streams. However, with Facebook wanting to increase revenue they have made it very hard for Fan pages to get their posts seen, forcing them to leverage paid/promoted posts. The challenge with these posts is that if you just tell Facebook to promote the post for say $10, Facebook will promote that post to the least expensive audience it has, typically this means Asia and South America. So for those pages leveraging the promoted posts they are seeing most of their paid engagement coming from countries like India, Pakistan and Colombia.

Facing this same challenge ourselves we have been experimenting with how best to be seen by the desired target audience for Dairy Cattle Genetics, (i.e. North America and Europe), and have found that we need to do targeted posts. These are posts that are specially promoted to these regions. What we have found is that while our total number of likes on each post are not as high, they are getting significant traction with our key audience and driving targeted traffic to our website (which is our main goal). When we compare our reach in regions like North America and Europe, we actually find that we have as much or more than these two publications that have almost twice the followers. What we don’t have is twice the noise. I guess that is why we have almost 50% higher Klout Score (Measure of influence in Social Media) than any of our competitors.

Some breeders who have not opted to go the paid or promoted posts route, now are creating or leveraging their current personal accounts for marketing their dairy cattle genetics to the world. This strategy while certainly cheaper also comes with many tradeoffs. First one being you get no performance reporting data, so you are unable to specifically see the success of each post, and can only look at the total number of likes or shares to evaluate the success of your company. Another tradeoff is that you do not reach as many people. Since your own posts are limited to the total number of friends you have on Facebook, (which for most is under 1,000). As compared to the number of followers, the typical fan page has which is about 2,000). (Read more: The Top 10 Dairy Breeder Facebook Fan Pages and Why They’re Successful). So while you are getting cheaper access to those people you already know (i.e. friends) you are missing out on a significant portion of the marketplace. This is often why you we see us share a Fan Page post on our personal pages in order to gain this exposure.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that Facebook marketing is not easy. It’s not as easy as “Post it and buyers will come.” It takes effort to achieve significant results from Facebook marketing. Trying to take the easy way out, or just throw money at the problem will not work. You need to make sure you have a targeted strategy in order to get significant results. Sure you can drive the number of likes and shares up by spending more money, but you will not gain any influence. In order to gain influence you need to base your strategy on producing quality content (posts) that your ideal audience actually wants to see in their streams, not what someone has paid Facebook to show you.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



The Top 10 Dairy Breeder Facebook Fan Pages and Why They’re Successful

top read 14 iconDoes your farm have a Facebook page?  Have you ever wondered what it takes to have a successful Facebook page for your dairy farm?  Well, look no further!

There is no question that Facebook has changed how dairy breeders connect with other breeders around the world.   Facebook has replaced the old print publications of the past. To find out the latest news and information, many breeders have either stopped advertising or have reduced how much they advertise in print publications and now leverage the power of Facebook to get their message out to the dairy community.

The following are the top 10 dairy breeder Facebook fan pages.   They have been evaluated based on, readership, engagement and the use of best practices.  Please note: In order to qualify for this list they needed to be an actual Facebook fan page and not a personal account.

10. Vanzetti Holstein

Vanzetti Holstein

1,108 Likes          167 People Talking About This    18 Posts Per Month        Joined Facebook on 08/25/2010

The only non-north American breeder page on our list, Vanzetti Holstein are from Turin Italy.  They have over 180 cows milking in two Lely robots.  Always sharing great content from around the world, their Facebook page has become very popular with those who follow them.

9. Ferme Jacobs

Ferme Jacobs

4,279 Likes          152 People Talking About This    16 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 11/21/2010

Doing an excellent job of sharing their many successes from the show ring, Ferme Jacobs has developed an extremely strong and loyal following for themselves. (Read more: FERME JACOBS: SUCCESS IS ALL IN THE FAMILY!)  For those that follow the North American show scene, the Ferme Jacobs Facebook page has become a must see, especially during World Dairy Expo, where the team at Ferme Jacobs produces many outstanding videos of their trip, highlighted last year by winning Supreme Champion honors with Maya (Read more: Ferme Jacobs 2013: A Journey of Magic, Maya and Mastery!).

8. Mistyglen Holsteins

Mistyglen Holsteins

1.952 Likes          107 People Talking About This    25 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 05/16/2010

Posting some of the most beautiful farm scene pictures on the web, Mistyglen Holsteins, recently installed a new Robotic milker and documented the whole process on their Facebook fan page. (Read more: Mistyglen Take Two: “Siblings and Robots Inc.”)  Mistyglen’s Facebook page does an excellent job of demonstrating to non-dairy breeders what a positive Dairy farming operation looks like.

7. Kingsway Farms

Kingsway Farms

2.245 Likes          141 People Talking About This    20 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 07/17/2111

Never afraid to shy away from a great conversation, the McMillan family of Kingsway Farms in Hastings Ontario does an excellent job of sharing their success and developing reader engagement.  Snapshots of the next great ones can regularly be seen on their Facebook page as well as many great conversations about what sires are getting the job done, or insight into what many breeders are talking about.

6. River Valley Farm

River Valley Farm

4,477 Likes          584 People Talking About This    30 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 05/21/2010

A 300-cow family farm focused on developing breed-leading cow families that deliver genetics that producers around the globe can believe in and trust, River Valley Farm does a good job of building their brand through Facebook.  With their recent agreement with Select Sires and the 7JE5000 stud code series, River Valley has certainly added Facebook as an important component of their marketing strategy.

5. Deer Hill Ayrshires & Brookview Ayrshires and Holsteins

Deer Hill

Deer Hill Ayrshires
1,368 Likes          125 People Talking About This    20 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 03/18/2011

Brookview Ayrshires and Holsteins

Brookview Ayrshires and Holsteins
1,060 Likes          280 People Talking About This    30 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 07/02/2011

For those of you that think you need to be a Holstein breeder in order to have success on Facebook, you need to look at Deer Hill Ayrshires from Maine, and Brookview Ayrshires and Holsteins from New Zealand.  These two herds do a fantastic job of regularly posting and have built up an extremely loyal following.  Both do an excellent job of posting unique content that is non-promotional and very engaging.  (Read more: The Magic of Francesca)

4. Ferme Blondin

ferme blondin

6,442 Likes          567 People Talking About This    30 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 07/07/2010

Ferme Blondin certainly knows about the power of using Facebook to drive genetic sales.  Dann Brady and the team do a great job of sharing what genetics they have available, while not boring you with nonstop sales messages.  They use a good mix of content to make sure that breeders are up-to-date, but not tuning out.  With some of the best genetics in the world, their following has indeed reached the International marketplace cost effectively through Facebook. (Read more: FERME BLONDIN “Passion with a Purpose Builds Success”)

3. Milk Source

Milk Source

5,556 Likes          3700 People Talking About This  15 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 07/21/2010

Milk Source, LLC operates dairies, animal-care facilities and cropland in Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas.  With both genetics to market as well as consumers to build brand awareness for, Milk Source has a variety of content on their Facebook fan page.    With cows like Blondin Redman Seisme-Red getting ready for World Dairy Expo, Milk Source has built a broad and diverse following on their Facebook fan page.

2. Sandy-Valley Farms

Sandy-Valley Farms

2,976 Likes          645 People Talking About This    22 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 01/19/2012

Possessing some of the best genetics in the world, might make some dairy breeders get lazing with their marketing strategy, Not Sandy-Valley Farms.  (Read more: Pine-Tree Monica Planeta Is the New Genomic Super Star Maker) Instead of just posting their outstanding results, Danae Bauer and the team at Sandy-Valley do an excellent job of using photos to help build engagement.  Danae has done such a great job of this she has recently started her own successful photography business, Farmgirl Photography.  (Read more: DANAE BAUER: Capturing the Passion)

1. Luck-E Holsteins

Luck-E Holsteins

8,205 Likes          833 People Talking About This    12 Posts Per Month  Joined Facebook on 03/07/2010

With one of the top type herds in the world, Luck-E Holsteins has done a fantastic job at marketing their genetics through Facebook.  It’s not just luck for the team at Luck-E they have put a great deal of effort into developing the largest following of any Dairy Breeder Facebook fan page in the world.  With many outstanding classification and show results to share with the world, Luck-E Holsteins certainly has figured out how to use Facebook to market their genetics to the world.  (Read more: Luck-E Holsteins: The Harder they work, the Luck-E-r they get!)

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, check out what others are doing and tweak these strategies to make them your own!

What do you think about the above Facebook pages? Please leave your comments below.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.




Sounds rule the dairy day. But even those who rise when the cock crows and listen intently for pasture moos or dog alerts or the rumble of properly working farm machinery, can’t honestly say that they are masters of the finer aspects of attentive listening.  Author Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) says, most of us have had years and years of learning how to read and write, and to speak but then he asks a revealing question, “How much training have you had in listening?” Well, the answer for most of us is “None!”

Cows and Communication.  You’ve Got to Market Both!

There are so many skills to learn as a dairy farmer. Even more if you intend to be profitable and sustainable in an industry that is consolidating many pieces into larger and larger dairy operations. The pieces should fit together like a puzzle. However we sometimes skip the work needed to win our customers hearts and wallets. We think we can talk our way into the marketplace but, in actual fact, we need to listen first. Consider this. If you listened to your potential customers of semen, embryos or animals better than anybody else could, how do you think it would affect your sales?

It’s fine to promote your milking stats, classification scores or showring successes but, if you aren’t listening to your marketplace, all you will probably hear is the echo of your own voice.

Every one of us in the dairy industry is a salesperson of one sort or another. Whether it’s an idea, an association, a service or a product, we all have something to sell. Quite often it’s that personal agenda that we carry around with us that prevents us from really listening. “Everybody wants show type/genomics/ ” or “Nobody wants show type/genomics” Fill in the sales feature of choice. It isn’t the feature that we need to establish first. It is listening to the customer first. Our business grows when we focus on the customer’s frame of reference ahead of our own.

Here at the Bullvine we are well aware that enthusiasm can have us pushing an agenda that is mostly ours and not necessarily that of the majority of breeders. Having said that, we have been shown over and over again that listening and asking questions goes much further than talking and telling. It is the only way to understand what is happening in the marketplace and who is asking for what. Listening doesn’t mean there is only one way. It means listening to the market you are intending to serve. It means knowing what they want more than pushing what you’ve got.

Are we Car Salesmen or Cow Salesmen?

The day of the fast talking cattle salesman with a big car and the “right” connections, no longer sells cattle. Today in the dairy industry, as in most other businesses, new tools are in our faces every day.  Genomics, robotics, nutri-science and much more combine with instant worldwide communication.  Today the choices for both selling and buying are multiplying exponentially.

  • Social media makes it easier for customers to express their needs. Imagine! They expect to be listened to. “Don’t talk me into changing my mind about the kind of cows to work with. Listen and give me what I want.”
  • Live cattle auctions are facing challenges from attendance to lineup to top price relevance.
  • Show string marketing isn’t the “sure” thing it once was.

Where are Your Customers Talking From?

There was a time when your strategy for selling would be based quite specifically on geographic location. Unless you had an “in” with specific buyers or cattle dealers, you were pretty much limited to selling what the local marketplace wanted. Today you can set your strategy based on your dairy vision and particular skill and, find a market worldwide. This means more focused targets, deeper discussions about customer wants and providing and maintaining an ongoing relationship. But first off, it means gaining expertise in the digital marketplace.

Come and Get It?

So you know what the dairy cattle buyers want. You know what you have. How do you put the two together? Whether you use social media, tag sales, auctions or simple word of mouth you have to be found. Sales don’t happen unless the market knows what you have and how to find you. More and more the marketplace is customizing the product to a specific buyer. When you can customize your product to a specific marketplace you can leave the pontificating, posturing and politics behind.

Who do YOU listen to?

When you’re talking all the time, you’re limited to what you already know. When you’re listening, there is much to learn.  Having said that, if you just listen to people who reflect back who you are (and what you believe in) – then you’ll stay where you are.  Anti-genomics.  It’s fairly simple to pick the crowd to talk to.  Pro showring.  You know where to spend your time.  It makes for comfort, but it doesn’t make for progress. Comfort may be your goal but if you’re feeling stalled, perhaps you need to set your GPS for a different dairy destination.

The RIGHT information at the RIGHT time from the RIGHT source.

Even the smallest dairy operation has the marketing budget to make use of listening skills. It’s not expensive to listen. It starts with knowing what your customer wants. Insights derived from that information means you can take action. So what? What does the customer want? How will my dairy operation respond? If the market wants a genomic baseline of 2400+ gTPI, why are you settling for 2000 to 2300 gTPI in your breeding decisions? When you serve the type market are you seeking the udders and legs of longevity or do you breed for the showring judge who gives the advantage to stature?

Do You Hear the Criticism?

Marketplace criticism is valuable. Especially if you listen closely and make changes. If your sales are bogged down, finding out the cause is especially necessary. What a lever to get you unstuck! Use the power of two way communication. Social media adapts the old formula: “Two ears. Two eyes. One mouse.” Listen first and then respond pro-actively. Don’t hide from criticism. Accept and respond by making adjustments. One of the telltale signs of success are those dairy/genetics operations that are building new brands and experiencing exponential growth in a fraction of the time it takes to “launch”, advertise and push your own agenda. If you’re so busy putting your own stamp on the marketplace – regardless of what they’re asking for – you are also squashing any creative new direction that could take you to the next level.

Customer first. Then what?

We can all understand and repeat the sales mantra, “The customer is always right!”  That’s what the message so far has been emphasizing.  It’s easy to accept that the one who listens the best will serve the customer best.  But there is other listening that can lift your business higher on the ladder of success.

Listen to your Dairy Staff

Sometimes we forget that the people who work with the calves, heifers and cows every day have the clearest picture of the assets we are trying to sell in the marketplace. Here is a listening skill that is absolutely basic to dairy success that is too often overlooked. What does your staff say about working in the milking parlor with your cattle?  What do they like about certain cow families? What insights do they have that can be used to attract buyers to your operation.  Even more than the glossy ad or a catchy tag line is the endorsement of someone who works every day in the barn or in the show ring.   Simple question.  “What is she like to work with?” and then really listening to the answer.  That is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to re-start, re-design and remake a dairy marketing strategy that is stagnating.  Listening begins in the barn.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Now listen up. It’s fair to say that dairy cattle marketing can be complicated. However, if you put some of these listening skills to work in your dairy marketing strategy, the next sound you will hear could be coming from your cash register. Dairy genetic businesses sell best when they listen best! Cha-Ching!




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Has the Show Ring Lost Its Function?

Over the past year, I have found myself wondering, “What is the function of the show ring?”  Attendance at shows has gone down, and there are fewer animals coming out.  But more concerning than anything else is that it seems that too many of the winners at the major shows  have had significant flaws and   do not truly represent the most productive, long-lived cows that were at the show.  This has me wondering if the show ring still has a function in today’s dairy industry.

Long have I listened to the three functions of showing dairy cattle: breed improvement, merchandising and marketability.  So as I am now pondering show ring relevance, I figured I would look at each of these three areas and see how well each one actually performs.

Breed Improvement

For years, there has been an ongoing debate about how well a top show cow would last in a commercial environment.  Over the past eight months, pretty much every cow that I have seen named Grand Champion at a Holstein show has had a significant functional flaw.  This definitely raises an issue for me because, if the show ring is supposed to be the best of the best, shouldn’t the Grand Champion be a great example of that?  For me, the question now becomes, “What is it that we are looking for?” For that, I turn to the Dairy Cow Unified Score Card (US) and Holstein Cow Score Card (Canada), and I find myself looking at the relative emphasis of each major category.  I question the relative weightings in relation to what a long-lived productive cow truly looks like.  (Read more:  She Ain’t Pretty – She Just Milks That Way!).  This became very evident to me at a judging school I recently attended.  On that day, the official panel (which was two representatives from AI) placed a cow at the top of the class who had a major rump problem which is usually associated with reproductive issues. Something you would expect someone who worked in the AI industry to be cognizant of.  At the bottom of the class was a very sound cow, placed there because she was not as “deep bodied and dairy as the other cows in the class.”  This caused me extreme concern. Not only did it kill my score/performance for the day, but also on a more significant scale, what does it say about us as an industry, if we are selecting these animals to represent the best of the best.

2year old - composite background

Ideal Show/Classification 2 year old

genomic 2 year old - composite background

Typical High Index 2 year old

efficient 2 year old - composite background

High productive and efficient production 2 year old.

For me, the issue here is not just a show ring problem.  It is also a classification issue.  The weighting on the score card is the same for both classification and show ring.  If we look at the score card and compare the correlations between production and productive life, we see significant issues arising around what should be benchmarks for a long-lived productive cow.


*Performance based score developed by using weights of correlations for productive life and production to each of the four major trait areas.

By looking at the correlations between actual performance data and the breed scorecards, two glaring issues come to light:

Too much emphasis on Mammary System

For years I have heard it said, again and again, it all begins with the cow’s udder.  Naturally, that makes sense, since we are talking about milk production.  What is interesting is that, while the correlation between Mammary System and Productive Life are very high, the correlation between Mammary System and actual milk production is actually negative.  My belief on this matter is that, since we have put so much emphasis on udders over the past 30 years, the Mammary Systems on most cows are to the point where they are more than sound for productive reasons.  In other words, we have done such a good job at breeding for strong well-attached udders that are well above the hock that we now have taken it to the extreme, where even cows with average udders are still correct enough to last several lactations and be productive cows.  Furthermore, and this is where the problem lies, the sires who provide the greatest udder improvement don’t actually sire enough milk.

Top 10 Proven UDC Proven Sires April 2014

NameMilkFatProtSCSConfStatureBody Depth
DE-SU OBSERVER-ET233691832.7112-2-4
DE-SU CIMARRON-ET289599882.691000
LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN149083823.11126-2
DE-SU HISTORY-ET2083101812.72802
MORNINGVIEW LEVI132186742.5730-3
DE-SU ALTAGOALMAN-ET2856107892.773-2-3
CO-OP BOSSIDE MASSEY-ET115175662.52600
WELCOME BOL LATHAM-ET179778812.94722
KINGS-RANSOM B RUBLE307887922.987-2-2

In looking at the top 10 proven sires for Udder Composite you will notice that only 5 sires have a positive value for milk (PTAM) and only two sires (Buxton and Golf) are over 1000 lbs. of milk.  The top 100 UDC proven sires from the April 2014 Genetic Evaluations average a very low 551 lbs of milk (PTAM).

Top 10 Proven Production (PTAM) Sires April 2014

NameMilkFatProtSCSConfStatureBody Depth
DE-SU MUCHO 11209-ET1319102852.63920
MR CHARTROI ELOQUENT-ET1740106862.791231
PARILE LOCARNO177486842.67122-3
SANDY-VALLEY PANAMA-ET1841108742.4911-1-2
BUTZ-HILL LETTERS-ET199986852.7110-2-1
DE-SU THUNDER-ET1339100602.63164-2
DE-SU PHOENIX 588-ET2659113952.768-1-3
DE-SU SKYMONT 11195-ET163194742.7412-1-3
CHAMPION ALTABOOKEL196394792.8115-1-1

Conversely, if you look at the top 10 proven sires for milk (PTAM) you will notice that there are two sires (Ruble and Jigsaw) that are over +2.00 for UDC in fact the top 100 milk sires have an average UDC of 1.16.  In the top 100 proven Productive Life sires average +1.44 for UDC and +1.48 for PTAT. Therefore it’s very clear that the top sires for milk do not always have the best udders, and the top udder sires are not typically you high production sires.  Interestingly this leads to the conclusion that a high UDC is not as strong an indicator of either production or the ability to have high production over a cows lifetime as many believe.

Not enough emphasis on Functional Rumps

There certainly has been a strong positive trend over recent years to breed and select cattle with greater emphasis on reproduction.  With that has come a greater focus on rump angle.  This is an area where I am noticing the greatest discrepancy between the show ring and what it truly takes to be a long-lived functional cow.  It has been generally accepted that a level wide rump was a show ring rump and a high rump angle rump was a calving ease rump.  The challenge is that, over the past year, I have seen cows with extremely high pins being made Grand Champion.  While I love a nice boxcar rump as much as the next person does, it still needs to be at least level and not have a severe tilt from back to front.


There used to be a time that you could take a heifer to a spring show with the expectation that, if she did well, you would be able to sell her for significant dollars.  That has changed to such an extent that not nearly as many breeders are even sending animals to the spring shows anymore.  In fact, those that are looking to sell their animals are opting to send them to a Tag Sale instead.  Lately, that is proving to be a better avenue for merchandising your show animals.  For a couple of hundred dollars you can have your heifer clipped, fitted and worked with.  That is a fraction of the cost of taking them to a show yourself.  (Read more:  TAG – You are it! How and Why TAG Dairy Sales Are Successful)

One thing that came to light for me, as I was sitting watching the Best of Both World’s sale this week, hosted by St. Jacobs ABC, Ferme Blondin, and Crasdale Auctions, was that there is still  a  market for “show cattle.”  (Read more: Best of Both Worlds – Sale Report)  Now I am not saying that they are topping the major sales or bringing the highest revenue (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013).  What I am saying is that a cow that has had some success in the show ring and that can produce desirable type calves reliably is still very profitable.  An example of this was Ernest-Anthony Aphrodite-ET 2E 95 who sold for $21,000 at the sale.  While her show days are long behind her, she still carries significant value.  That is because she is able to reliably produce nice cut calves. She also flushes well, as was evident at the sale with many of those nicely cut daughters selling for $5,000 to $10,000. (Read more:  KUEFFNER DAIRY TEAMWORK “2 Dream the Impossible Dream!”) While the price of genomic animals has certainly fluctuated, a well-bred, nice pedigreed calf from a fairly well known show cow family continues to be one of the most stable markets. (Read more: The Judge’s Choice – Investment advice from Tim Abbott)


Ernest-Anthony Aphrodite-ET 2E 95 the Member 2009 All-American Produce of Dam, Member 2009 All-American Senior Best 3 Females, Member of 2007 Unanimous All-American Senior Best Three Females and Reserve All-American Produce of Dam sold for $21,000 at the Best of Both Worlds Sale. Of course Aphrodite is from the great Tri-Day Ashlyn-ET EX 96, the Supreme Champion from the 2001 World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair.


Over the past two years, I have noticed a drastic decrease in the number of people attending cattle shows.  This has gotten to the point where many have started openly raising concerns about what is happening.  Take for example the recent Maxville Holstein Show (Read more: Maxville Holstein Show Results 2014) where it would have been generous to say there were 100 spectators in the crowd.  Furthermore, the average age of those spectators was well over 60.  If you were evaluating marketability by that attendance at the show, you would certainly have been disappointed.  However, here again, times have changed. Today, due to the Internet, more and more people are watching from home.  Especially if they live a significant distance away.  (Read more: Who is going to the show? Why attendance is down at the dairy cattle shows).  The statistics from our own coverage tell a very different story than does the attendance at the show.  We had over 10,000 people view the show results on our website on show day alone.  Over 1,300 people shared our webpage on Facebook and another 3,000 people liked or shared our pictures on Facebook.  Therefore, what has really happened? The answer is that the marketability of a show has gone from being that of a local attendance market to a worldwide market, where you can merchandise to people from around the globe (as long as the right dairy publications attend).  If the dairy publications don’t choose to attend your local show, there is still an opportunity to snap your own pictures, get them liked and shared around the world and produce your own viral marketing.  I have often seen a quick selfie by breeders at a show far outperform a professional side photograph on Facebook.

The Bulvine Bottom Line

When all is said and done, the viral nature of show results, pictures, and videos on the Internet prove that the show ring still serves a relevant position in today’s dairy industry.  There are certainly opportunities to further enhance the relevance of the show ring to the rest of the industry.  The best way to do that is in the type of cattle that we select at the shows.  For years, the show ring and type classification led the charge on the need to focus more on mammary system improvement.  Today we are at the point where cows’ udders in most herds in the world are very sound.  It’s now time for the show ring and type classification to again lead the charge when selecting for long-lived productive cows.  This will mean putting greater emphasis on functional rumps and functional cows.

Let`s ensure that the show ring has a relevant function in the dairy industry for years to come.



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Dare To Show Your Facebook! Twitter And YouTube!

The sales and marketing strategies that worked a decade ago are no longer viable. When our family was young there was a battle for the Holstein Journal … and the winner locked his or her self in the washroom to fend off contenders.  Today’s reach goes far beyond the throne room. Whenever the family gathers, there are several (never less than one) handheld devices in the room. This guarantees that the most familiar view that we get to see of spouses, offspring and grandchildren is the top of their heads!

Obviously, if you are reading this you know how to connect to the Internet.  Perhaps you are also following The Bullvine on Facebook and Twitter.  Perhaps one of your new pastimes is Pinterest. If these social media applications have made it to your house, they should also be making it into your marketing plan for selling your dairy cattle or dairy goods and services.

Here Are 9 Ways The Dairy Marketplace Has Changed And How We Can Stay Relevant Today!

  1. Don’t Waste Your Money!
    Everyone is watching their money these days.  The days of high spending and quick cash from international sales of bred heifers have gone the way of the dial telephone. Everyone is careful.  Everyone is informed (or should be). For many dairy operations, cash flow is tighter than it has been and they are looking to stretch their resources by purchasing less, but higher quality genetics, cattle and services.
  2. Get More Bang for Your Buck!
    Dairy breeders are looking to get the biggest bang for their buck.  When they decide to buy dairy genetics they are looking for cost savings or added value benefits. They seek to buy animals that will move them closer to achieving the goals they have set for their herd. Breeders must have “buy in” before they “shell out”. They want to be sure that the genetics, the production numbers or the conformation are going to move them ahead before they tap their resources.
  3. Go Where the Action Is
    Social media, social networking and the dominance of the internet in our everyday lives means you are now fighting for attention in a very “noisy” marketplace. If you choose to avoid the very visible interaction of social media, you are choosing to be invisible to the most dynamic and growing part of the modern dairy industry.  At the very least, not choosing social media, means not impacting the young breeders which are the future of the industry.
  4. Have Something to Say
    It isn’t enough to be seen … you must also be heard! In order to be heard, your content needs to be creative, dynamic and engaging. Okay doesn’t cut it.  You might as well surrender now if you have decided to simply move your same-as-everybody-else pictures from hard copy ads in breed magazines to social media sites.  Others will put in the time and resources it takes to create great content which will be shared and gain new life across the web. We are seeing live videos and you tube clips giving streaming pictures. Anything less will soon become another murmur that gets drowned out by the voices that are bold enough to stand out.
  5. Sharing is Caring
    It may sound childlike but sharing really is caring in our social savvy, hyper-connected marketplace. Word of mouth has always been important in how you and your cattle are known but today through social media that word is spreading to your friends, and their friends, family and social connections. Today, followers share your content on Face book, tweet their positive, and yes, negative experiences on Twitter and refer you through reviews on Yelp and Amazon.  They will send instant photos of your cows, heifers and calves and share your fan page and blog posts with their networks, which can have a reach of thousands.  It`s important to make your content easily sharable.  There are many tools that can help, but the key is to ensure that sharing is easy for them.
  6. The Social Media Farm lane is a TWO-WAY Street
    To miss out on testimonials and word of mouth that social sharing provides is a sure-fire strategy to sink into dairy obscurity.  Your most successful competitors are facilitating social sharing, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  The Internet doesn`t sleep.  Take advantage of your audience`s interests in sharing what’s happening in your herd with their networks.
  7. Go Mobile
    You have to meet your dairy customers where they are with messages that are relevant to them.  It`s not enough to blanket traditional marketing channels with generic messages.  Today`s cattle buyers spend less time reading ads in magazines and newspapers. Traditional advertising is getting bypassed. Even when your target audience is watching their favorite shows today, they are using their DVR to bypass the commercials or using the commercial breaks to browse the Internet or flip through their iPads.  To grab their attention you have to meet them where they are.  On their mobile devices.  If your website is not optimized for mobile, you are doing your web marketing a severe disservice.  If you are not spending time on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, then your potential customers, who are getting their fill of social interaction on these sites, all day long, are finding other dairy genetics providers to interact with.
  8. Are You Listening to Me?
    And if you`re failing to listen as much as you are taking on these social sites, then you are ignoring an opportunity to mine valuable research on what your target consumers are interested in, what motivates them, and what they are looking for.  Track your analytics and listen to what people are saying about you, and to you, on your social sites.  You can`t gather information that is more relevant and useful than customer feedback freely provided online.

One of the quickest ways to gain the attention of buyers of dairy genetics is to listen to them. Consumers want to be heard. It’s no longer enough to push out your message, no matter how well-crafted and attention getting your message may be. Today’s marketing has to be a two-way conversation between you and the buyer. Engagement is the best way to make an impact. Increase awareness of who you are and what you’re offering and you win the loyalty of those you are targeting.  Dairy breeders are passionate. Social sites are essential in creating that bond and ultimately the trust that is built on your care and shared interest in them, their dairy business and their feedback.

THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE “Are you still marketing to last decade’s customer?”

To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



The Shocking Speed of Social Media and the Dairy Industry

There is no question that social media has changed our world.  From the ability to talk to people of like mind from anywhere in the world to the ability to learn the latest news instantly, the dairy industry has changed dramatically as a direct result of social media.(Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Every second 2,200 tweets are posted, 580 users update their Facebook status and 24 minutes of video are uploaded to YouTube.  The scary part is that adoption rates of new social networks are accelerating.  It took LinkedIn 3.5 years to reach 10 million users.  The same feat took Twitter just over 3 years, and Facebook 2.5 years.  Most recently Google+ did it in just 2 weeks.  The reach of social networks is spreading faster than any infectious disease in the history of mankind.  From 2005 to2010, Facebook gained over 500 million users.  More than the entire world population at the time of the Black Death. (Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Shocked and Amazed in the Show Ring at Summer Show

This past week’s events highlighted for me just how astonishingly fast social media is.  First, while attending the Ontario Summer Show, the power of the Internet and social media certainly flexed its muscle (Read more: Ontario Summer Show 2013 Holstein Results).  Coming into the show, I would have told you that Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2yr, the Res. All-Canadian Sr. 2yr old from 2012 and 1st Senior 3 & Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion Ontario Spring Show 2013 would be able to stroll her way to an easy win.  Then entered Raivue Sanchez Pamela and Desnette Alexia Roseplex and you could hear the excitement in the crowd rise to another level.  Roseplex, a cow that probably has one of the greatest side profiles I have ever seen, has been developing well since winning Intermediate Champion at the 2013 Quebec Spring Show and has gained more chest width and rear udder width to go with that amazing profile.  Then there is Pamela that on any other day, against any other competition might have been the talk of the town.  Instantly, I was getting messages from breeders around the world saying how amazing that class was and speculating about who would win.  The shared pictures from all three cows were extremely popular.  But once you saw these three amazing cows in line, you realized that Rae Lynn was simply that much longer and dairier than these other two also outstanding cows.


Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2YR
First Senior 3 year old, Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand Champion
Owned by Quality, Granja Ponderosa, Al-Be-Ro Land & Cattle, ON and Spain

Almost instantly the questions switched to asking when we will see Rae Lynn against the likes of Butz-Butler Gold Barbara VG-89-2yr and Eastriver Gold Deb 850 EX-92 EX-92 MS?  The challenge is that since Rae Lynn has been milking since last October and is not due again until March 2014, we may not see her again until the Royal, passing on the long trip to World Dairy Expo.  Let’s hope that we may see her at Madison to give us the greatest Senior 3 year old class in history.

Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show - Calbrett Goldwyn Layla (Goldwyn), Mature Cow, For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.  Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95
1st Mature Cow and Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show
For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.
Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Having said that, none of this chatter could compare to what was to follow around Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95.  Normally, when it’s time for the mature cow class, it comes down to which cow has had held up to the wear and tear.  However, this year at Ontario Summer Show, things were a little different.  The winning mature cow was a 3rd calf 7 year old.  This became a subject that was very polarizing to breeders at ringside and especially online.  She was shown perfectly by the great showman David Dyment.  He always seems to know how to make a cow stand out.  There is no question that Layla catches your eye.  She is extremely dairy and strong and looked the part.  She did handily win the class.  The part that shocked many was when Judge Bruce Mode went on to name Goldwyn Layla Grand Champion of the show.  We are certainly fans of judges who take bold moves here at the Bullvine (Read more: Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage)

The reaction online was certainly mixed.  Almost instantly, there were comments being posted either in agreement or disagreement.  Questions starting coming in about just how good did she look and did she need extra help in order to make it to the ring?  It’s not unusual for these rumors to swirl around champions. And stories — true and false — begin to be shared. Today they’re shared instantly!! Call it marketing.  Call it borderline ethical.  The concern is there, especially for young breeders who are looking to get into the marketing of elite cattle genetics.  If the concerns are true, what message does this send to them?  Here we may have a cow being rewarded for all the wrong reasons.  Will she contend at Madison or the Royal?  Will she even be there?  Moreover, how is she beating a cow that has the potential to become one of the greatest of all time?

Changing the Conversation

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the conversation to change to a more positive note.  This year’s International Intrigue Sale hosted by Ferme Blondin was certainly a positive for the industry.  (Read more: International Intrigue: Forget the Records It’s About the People and International Intrigue at Ferme Blondin Sale Results 2013).  While the sale didn’t have some big name World Dairy Expo Grand or Intermediate Champion contender, it certainly did have a strong line up with many outstanding individuals.  Extremely popular online was Jacobs Sid Bamba, a Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96 who sold for $50,000 and Ms C-Haven Oman Kool-ET (VG-87-2YR), the former number one gTPI “Man-O-Man” daughter in the U.S. and second highest protein cow at +80, who sold for $92,000.

Jacobs Sid Bamba

Jacobs Sid Bamba
A Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96
Sold for $50,000 at the International Intrigue Sale

While Layla selling to Comestar and Ponderosa for $125,000 at the Cormdale Summer Sale on Monday (Read more: Cormdale Summer Sale Results) re-ignited the conversation, I thought we would have a quieter time for the rest of the week.  However, that certainly was not the case.  Normally it’s my personal opinion editorial pieces that get us here at The Bullvine in trouble.  This time it was our interview with Don Bennink (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!)  that took the conversation in a different direction and to completely new levels.  This time is wasn’t just the small segment of the marketplace that follow the shows, but rather it was the dairy community at large who felt the need to let their opinions be known.  There is no question that Don’s opinions about type classification, type evaluations and how they predict longevity have fueled this    polarizing subject.  .  As a strong supporter of type classification, it has caused mixed thoughts in my own head (Read more: The Truth About Type and Longevity) and has generated some amazing conversation on Facebook.

Just When You Think It’s All Over

Just when I think that it’s all over, and that we can now settle down to a holiday long weekend with the family, a completely new fire erupts.  One of our news items from the weekend about how the Whitaker family of Georgia had the unfortunate occurrence of having one of their trusted employees  suspected of illegal activities leading to 40+ cop cars, and SWAT personnel in cooperation with the family descending on the farm.  This led to the finding of several guns, marijuana and methamphetamines, which investigators estimated could be worth $50,000.  While this is certainly unfortunate for a great family who are strong members of the dairy community, the reaction to the news article we collated “FBI Storms Whitaker Farm For Drug Bust”, certainly caused a commotion on Facebook with a few breeders who felt the title did a disservice to this family.  Yet another example of the power and speed of social media.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.  Dairy farmers have never been short on having them.  The difference is that, through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, breeders can now share their opinion with thousands instantly instead only with a few local breeders.  You no longer have to call several breeders to find out what happened at the show or sale.  You don’t even have to wait for it to be printed in one of the old school magazines.  Things are happening in real time and the news is now coming to you, instead of you having to go and find it.  One of the biggest changes we have noticed since starting the Bullvine is how many breeders no longer go to the news sections of the dairy publications anymore.  They now watch their Facebook news feed and if there is an article or news item of interest that has been shared by a fellow breeder or company they follow, they go ahead and read it.  No longer do they have to surf through many sites just to find the few tidbits they would be interested in.  Now they can get it all in their Facebook news stream complete with the ability to share their opinion with their friends and fellow breeders.  It is truly shocking the speed of Social Media and how it has affected the dairy industry.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

In the End, All you have is your Name!

The dairy industry is not a large one.  It’s also an industry that loves gossip, controversy, and the latest rumor.  So when you do something stupid it does not take long for word to get around.  And that was before there was social media.  That is why I find it so surprising   that some breeders don’t realize that the dairy industry is a pretty small pond and that the ripples reach from edge to edge.

I have had the pleasure of knowing many different characters in the industry.  Some of them carried  a reputation that was much larger than life yet,  when you got to know them, they were actually pretty good people.  Then there are others who would tell you to your face how good they are or how “honest” they are and then turn and stab you in the back the second you weren`t  looking.  The challenge is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which one is which.

Whether it’s someone who loves to party hard and be the life and soul of the party, or how you conduct yourself in business, the number one thing you have is your name.   Once tarnished,  it  takes years to rebuild.   In the dairy industry there really is no difference between your personal and professional brand.  Many young people try to think that they can do crazy things and it will not affect them later in life.  The thing is, the industry is too small for that.  There are many very talented young people that  have  kissed away potentially great careers in the dairy industry by the stupid things they did in college or university.  There are also those that  have   taken years to regain the trust of others.

Social media has taken word of mouth and put it on steroids.  What used to take weeks or even months to spread through the dairy industry, now takes just minutes online.  There is a new reality in the dairy industry.  It’s no longer what you say and do to manage your brand or good name that matters.  It’s what others are saying about you online.  From our smartphones to our tablets and computers, to interacting with family, friends, colleagues and customers, our lives – and thus our reputations – exist online.

It may sound funny but it’s true.  Since starting the Bullvine I have seen it many times.  Breeders getting ripped apart by other members of the community on Facebook and other places and they don’t even realize that it’s happening.  But thanks to things like Facebook news feeds and Twitter streams, thousands of other members of the dairy industry do see it.  It may be as simple as someone being very critical of a cow or bull. Other times it can be a blatant attack on someone’s character.  However, since the victims  are not on these different social media platforms, they are not there to defend themselves.  Moreover, others that are reading these comments assume they`re the truth.

Another area where I have seen an extreme effect is dairy cattle livestock photography.  No group as a whole has been more ripped apart in social media.  While many of them have avoided Facebook as much as possible, it has not stopped breeders from expressing their opinions.  It was the barrage on photographers that led us to develop the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, in order to help rebuild their reputations.(Read more: Introducing the Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct)

Now we have all been there, where someone misrepresented what they were selling or we felt that we got the raw deal in a purchase agreement.  There have been some very legendary breeders that have been able to keep things like this under wraps.  But in today’s social world, things like this can go from known by one or two people to known by thousands in a moment’s notice.  That is why in today’s industry you have to conduct yourself above board 100% of the time.  Otherwise all it takes is a few comments on places like Facebook, before the whole world knows your true character.

Every day more and more breeders are getting on Facebook.  Breeders of all ages are enjoying the many benefits of connecting with breeders from around the world.  If you want to market your cattle to the world, there is no greater more cost effective platform than Facebook.  It’s no longer optional. It’s mandatory.  But that is just the first step. You also need to become an active member of the conversation.  Not just promoting only what you want to sell, (which kills your reputation), but also joining the conversation and developing friendships and a strong online reputation. It’s funny how some breeder’s true colors  come out online.  The ones that care about building community and helping others find that their posts get promoted like wildfire.  While others, who are just in it to suck money out of others, find that they get very little response to their posts. Inevitably,  t building a credible reputation online and forming real and lasting relationships with people, pays off in substantial ways, when you find yourself the center of negative online attention.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the dairy industry many breeders talk a lot about their name and their reputation.  The thing is sometimes they don’t understand the difference between how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them.  It’s not what you say that builds your reputation. It’s what you do. The key thing is to understand that when you make good decisions and stand behind what you say, especially when it’s difficult, your name, who you are, and what you stand for becomes something everyone can trust.  Because, when we leave this earth, your good name is all you really have.


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What Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby taught me about Dairy Cattle Marketing

Not since Wayne Gretzky ripped Leaf fan’s hearts out in game 6 of the 1993 playoffs have they felt such pain as they did on Sunday night after having a 3 goal lead on Boston with just over 10 minutes to play.  (FYI I had to forgive Gretzky as I married his cousin and it would cause bad in-law relations).  Making Leaf fans more prime for pain was the fact that they have not been in the playoffs for the past 9 years.  After watching what had to be one of the worst collapses in hockey history, I got to thinking about what it took to be great.  What I came up with is that truly great players like Gretzky and Crosby don’t only make themselves look great but they also make the players around them that much better.  Just like great cattle investments don’t only make themselves profitable but also help the animals around them  more profitable.

Lessons from Sydney Crosby

sidney-crosby-alex-ovechkin-game-7[1]Due to the lockout of 2004-2005, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin both entered the NHL in the same year.  At the time there was great debate about who was going to be the better player.  Since then the stats would tell you that Ovechkin has been the better investment.  He has 371 goals, 365 assists for 735 points, whereas Crosby has had 238 goals, 427 assists for 665 points.  However, sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Even though Ovechkin has won more individual awards (Rookie of the Year, 2x NHL goal scoring leader, 2x most valuable player, vs. 1 MVP and 1 scoring title for Crosby),  ask any NHL player which one is better and they would tell you that Crosby is by far.  That is because Crosby not only puts up numbers himself but he also makes the players around him raise their level of play. For example, before playing on a line with Crosby, Chris Kunitz highest goal total was 26 in an 82 game season. This year, playing with Crosby he had 22 in the shortened 48 game season. That is an almost  50% increase.  This outstanding ability to inspire  others around him has resulted in Crosby having played more playoff games than Ovechkin and has already won a Stanley Cup in his career.

When I got to thinking about how the truly great ones not only make themselves look great they also make the others around them better, it reminded me of a comment that Jeff Butler of Butlerview made in an interview we did with him just before Royal last year (Read more: Exciting Times for Butlerview).   In the article Jeff say’s “type brings the foot traffic to the farm, but genomics and pedigree get them buying.” This further reminded me of  an article I had written early this year about the great RF Goldwyn Hailey and how she  herself may not be a great return on investment (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey: Cash Cow or Cash Hog?).  While there is no question that Hailey’s  own numbers alone are  not the highest ROI in the market today, if you look at it from a marketing investment she and other great show cows could be the wisest marketing investment you could ever make.  Now I am not talking buy these animals for the over 1 million dollar mark.  But as Jeff says nothing drives traffic to your door like a great show cow.  Something Jeff should know considering he owns 2 of the top 5 cult following cows in the world today (R-E-W Happy Go Lucky and Cookview Goldwyn Monique).



The big thing you need to remember and as Jeff pointed out in our article is that you need the supporting cast in your herd to help convert that traffic into revenue.  For Butlerview that means animals like Regancrest S Chassity, Regancrest G Brocade and De-Su 199 Chart Topper.  These high genomic animals from big name pedigrees are the ones that help Butlerview’s big investment in show cattle pay dividends.  Key to any of this is the fact that all animals need to be good embryo producers or you might as well kiss your money goodbye (Read more: What Comes First the Chicken or the Egg?).

Lessons from Wayne Gretzky

The great hockey player  to every play the game, Wayne Gretzky, always said don’t go to where the puck is but rather, see where the puck is going and go there.  As we highlighted in our article about the marketing of Glen Drummond Aero Flower and DES-Y-GEN PLANET SILK, you need to see or even predict where the marketing is heading and make sure your marketing and breeding goals are in alignment with that (Read more: Marketing Lessons From Glen Drummond Aero Flower).  As the dairy industry develops, efficient milk production that fills the consumers’ needs will gain greater importance. National indexes are always being adjusted to reflect the marketplace.  In Canada it will not be long before greater weighting will be placed on health and fertility traits, this means you should already be breeding for this today so that your ahead of the curve when these changes occur.  Remember that it’s not only about how much milk, or how many show winning daughters a sire produces, but it’s also important to breed to a bottom line that is consumer friendly. It’s only a matter of time before the national indexes reflect this even more.


David Dyment has kept Planet Silk ahead of the curve by combining both high index, Red Factor and polled in one complete package. Her sons and daughters dominate the top of the Red and the RC list (GTPI). Her son DYMENTHOLM S SYMPATICO is one of the highest GTPI and GLPI active bulls in the breed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Headliners will get you attention, but their ability to make the others around you shine as well will be what makes you the money.  Sidney Crosby is a great player, but it’s the ability to lift up the others around him better that  wins the Stanley Cup.  The same was true for Wayne Gretzky.  It wasn’t just his own ability to dominate a game that created the opportunity for Gretzky to appear in 6 Stanley Cup finals, winning four of them.  It was his ability to see the play developing and make his team around him shine too that did it.  Until players like Ovechkin learn this key lesson he will never win a cup.  The same is true when you are designing your genetic marketing program.  Until you learn just how you are going to use your headliners to maximize the other genetic stars in your herd and look 3+ years down road and see where the market is heading, you are never going to generate  as much return on your investment as you could.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



Who’s to Blame? Why is there a lack of accountability in the Dairy Genetics Marketplace

Accountability, Wikipedia tells you that accountability is the answerability, blameworthiness, liability, acknowledgment and assumption for the resulting consequences.  Yet in the dairy genetics marketplace it seems to be a word that is seldom used, although very much required.

Dairy cattle genetics is big business.  Millions of dollars change hands every year, yet the level of accountability, in some cases, appears to be non-existent.  Once the genetics are sold who has the liability for the resulting animals?  Why are the breeders or sellers not responsible for the performance of the resulting animals?  Genomics and other tools have given us greater “confidence” in the reliability of the genetics we are investing in, so why aren`t the sellers of these genetics more responsible for the results?

Genetic Mutations

Recently there have been a couple of situations that have raised my concerns about responsibility.  The first occurred in New Zealand, about a year ago.  More than 1500 animals descended from Matrix a commercial Holstein-Friesian bull carry a genetic mutation that produces hairy, heat-intolerant, poorly lactating heifers.  The breeders affected by this problem feel the semen company did not deal openly with the problem and are being less than “cooperative” in seeking a solution for their affected members.  (Read More: New Zealand Dairy Farmers Seek Compensation For Hairy Calves).  Now this case is a very challenging one as Matrix is actually a result of a genetic mutation that occurred naturally and happens regardless of the breeding method used.  Genetic defects such as BLAD, CVM, Brachspia, Factor XI, DUMPS, CIT, and Mule Foot are all tested for and screened by the A.I. companies and as a result see very limited occurrence.  “Hairy calves” such as these ones resulting from Matrix have not been tested for and as a result it is surprising that there has been such a case.  So while it is genetically explainable and no one could have predicted this, the reaction of the company that sold and marketed Matrix, Livestock Improvement (LIC) is a concern.  They are refusing to pay any compensation as “most farmers recognize that these rare mutations are naturally occurring and simply a fact of life.” Having said that, for the future, the LIC is no longer selling Matrix semen and offers free genetic testing to identify calves with the mutation.  The question of legal and financial responsibility appears to be one that will take some time to answer in this case.


Through multiple, independent genetic tests, it has been confirmed that 7HO11781 Pine-Tree Colt SHINE-P-ET does not transmit the polled gene as previously believed.

Now not all mutations are a bad thing.  There was a time when Red & White calves where disposed of.  Today this is a “mutation” that many breeders desire.  Another mutation that is heavily sought after is polled (Read more: Polled Genetics – Way of the future or passing fad? and  They’re Sold On Polled).  In this case, the resulting polled heifers sell up to   250% higher than non-polled animals of equal genetic merit (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  However this highlights another story that caught my eye.  Recently Select Sires announced  that  Pine-Tree Colt SHINE-P-ET does not transmit the polled gene as previously reported  (Read More: Shine P Conflicting DNA Results for Polled Gene).  This touched off some very interesting reactions from breeders. The polled trait in dairy cattle can only be genetic tested with haplotype marker testing, which does allow for rare errors to be made.  This is quite different than actual gene testing that is available for genetic recessives like CVM or BLAD. Having said that, how did this sire make it to market without being more thoroughly screened?  The fact that once Shine-P’s non-polled status was discovered he was removed from their “Super Sire ™ lineup and no longer marketed”.  This indicates that his main genetic merit was the fact that he was a polled sire. Though I do commend Select for taking instant action and putting out a press release.  Not wanting to sweep it under the carpet they handled this well.  In such cases in the past other studs have not disclosed this information or claimed it was a case of mistaken ear tags.  Is there a test for stupidity?

Are Dairy Cattle Genetics Companies Made of Teflon?

Now both of these stories highlight some very rare occurrences, which in their own right would not have me thinking that the companies who sell dairy cattle genetics are not willing to take responsibility for the product they sell.  However they got me thinking about other issues, such as – inability to conceive, short herd life, deep udders, bad feet, poor production.  If a sire or animal is marketed to be high in these traits and the resulting animal proves to be well below expectations, exactly who is to blame?

Currently the only recourse is in not purchasing genetics from that company again.  This is an action many breeders are slow to take, as they seem to bleed the colors of their desired A.I. company.  After all, it’s hard to believe that the AI company they’re loyal to is unconcerned about unfulfilled claims.  However, should that be the case?  So should breeders suffer?

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.

Marketing Accountability

Another example of this is when it comes to dairy cattle marketing.  The false representation of animals has been a hot question among many breeders and has inspired us here at the Bullvine to start the Dairy Marketers’ Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed).  The lack of accountability for the resulting genetic product is one of the biggest differences between photo retouching of super models versus dairy cattle.  You are not purchasing the super model’s genetics you are purchasing the clothes, perfume, etc. that she is wearing.  Even though you are purchasing the genetics of the animal in question, you never really know if the cow/heifer/bull actually looks like she/he does in their picture.  Hence the need for some symbol to ensure that the company marketing these genetics is willing to take responsibility for the outcome.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The genetic advancement of your herd is one of the greatest long-term investments breeders make.  If you invest thousands of dollars in something you should have a minimum level of expectation for performance?  There are no guarantees in life. Having said that, what happens when expected performance and actual performance are not even in the same stratosphere?  What if it was your tractor? Your milking equipment?  That’s right.  People justifiably get mad….. in most cases.  So why is this not the case when you invest in dairy cattle genetics?

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

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

Are You Breeding Purple Cows?

Face it, the tactics that have been used for the past 50 years don’t work anymore.  The same old ads. In the same old magazine.  Advertising the same old genetics. After you’ve seen one, or two, or 10, you’ve seen them all!  Boring!  However, a Purple Cow?  Now that would be something.  Are you remarkable enough to have a Purple Cow?  In today’s day and age of in vitro fertilization, genomics and social media, you’re either remarkable or invisible.

bigpc[1]Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable is perfectly titled for dairy breeders today.  Godin’s understanding of dairy cattle is limited as represented by his comment “Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or 10, are boring,” but his point about needing to be remarkable, in order to stand out from the herd, is spot on.

Every day breeders come face to face with a lot of boring stuff – even a lot of the same old boring cows – but you can bet they would never forget a Purple Cow.  Now getting a Purple Cow marketing idea doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not as if you can just wake up one morning and change your marketing to have your “Purple Cow” idea.  You need to breed for it.  You need to manage for it.  And then and only then can you market it.

The Game Changers

For years, generation after generation of consistent breeding was enough to have your genetics in demand around the world.  However, that is no longer enough thanks to in vitro fertilization (Read more: IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry and FAST TRACK GENETICS: More Results in Less Time).  With so many breeders leveraging this technology and producing more and more cattle at the top end of the genetic scale, there has been a shift in the marketplace.  What used to be unique is becoming commonplace. In this recent spring sale season, I saw no less than three full sisters (Uno’s from the great Apple) selling at three different sales in a 1-week period.  And then of course there were still more sisters at home.  IVF has changed things so much that even at the very top end, owners of the very best genetics are having trouble differentiating their product.  Genetics that at one time would have been sale headliners, are now selling in those lull sections of the sale that minimize profits.  Combine that with the cost to produce these animals and the ROI is shrinking.  Of course IVF is a catch 22 technology.  If you don’t use it and other breeders are using it on their top genetics, you’re still left behind.

In one sense you could say Genomics has brought harmony to the world (Read more: The impact of genomics on cattle breeding and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry).  No longer are cattle from different countries viewed as inferior or of lesser genetic merit.  Genomic testing has brought uniformity to the world market.  But as a result it has also brought globalization to the industry and breeders can no longer differentiate their genetics by country of origin.  This means that instead of the top 1% of the genetics in the world being in high demand, it is now the top 0.1% (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  Either you are at the very top of the lists or you had better find a new niche or way to differentiate your genetics (Read more: Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).

AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA a very popular purple cow

AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA a very popular purple cow

If you want to get your message out to the world, there is nothing better than social media.  The power of tools like Facebook to let breeders around the world know what animals you have is amazing (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook and The Anti-Social Farmer: On the Verge of Extinction?).  The thing is, it still takes those animals that are the “Purple Cows” in order to be noticed.  Hailey, O’Kalibra, Missy, Happy Go Lucky and Rae Lynn are cows whose show ring successes have also caused social media success for their breeders.  On the genomic side, cows like Shauna, Lucia, and Hue have attracted a lot of attention.  Another aspect that helps pictures on Facebook go viral is the ones that comply with the Dairy Marketers Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing the Diary Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed ). However, in order to achieve this sustained viral status you first need to be unique. You need to know your niche.  You need to be a “Purple Cow.”

Valleyville Rae Lynn is certainly a Purple Cow

Valleyville Rae Lynn is certainly a Purple Cow

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put Purple Cow differentiation into everything you build and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable.  It’s a manifesto for dairy breeders looking to take their genetics programs to a new level.  Pretty ads, generations of VG or EX and nice cattle pictures will not pay the bills. Either you set yourself apart or you are wasting your time.  What makes you unique?  Have you found your Purple Cow breeding program or marketing idea?



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



How I Killed the Dairy Cattle Marketing Industry

In any industry there are those who adapt and those who die.  It really is that simple.  For example look at the dairy cattle publication world.  Those that are trying new things are thriving while others are wandering around lost in no man’s land or living on life support.  There is no question that if you cannot adapt you will die.  In the dairy cattle breeding and marketing world that means,  using the same old methods  that have been used  for the past 50  years. They just don’t cut it today.  The dairy cattle breeding industry of the past is dead. In order to embrace the new you need to lead not follow the path of others into a world that has reconfigured the possibilities. Blame science.  Blame technology.  Blame the Bullvine.  But don`t stop there.

Leaders Never Worry About Being Average

Tomorrow’s leaders are not the ones who seek to be average today.  Tomorrow’s leaders are the ones who are willing to be seen as outlandish  today because they believe in a different and better  tomorrow.

A great example of this is Jerry Jorgensen (Read more:  Breeding Ri-Val-Re: Where Looking Good in the Stall Is Just as Important as Looking Good on Paper and $10,000 a dose polled semen).  Instead of worrying about what  has been done in the past, Jerry is always looking for new ways to do things in breeding and marketing.  For his recent sale, instead of just trying to do all the same old boring advertising everyone else does, Jerry looked outside the box and tried something new.  He set up  a free giveaway for  all those people on Facebook that helped spread the word about his upcoming sale.  The results were outstanding.  He reached the right people and got a far greater response from one simple giveaway and request than all his other marketing combined.  And at a fraction of the cost I might add.

This promotion by Jerry Jorgensen was seen by over 100,000 people and liked and shared by thousands.

This promotion by Jerry Jorgensen was seen by over 100,000 people and liked and shared by thousands.

I watch as more and more breeders embrace technology such as Facebook.  I see some of the most traditional breeders, leveraging the power of social media to spread the word about newsworthy  events in their breeding programs.  A fine  example of this is Quality Holsteins who are  seen by many, including myself, as the model for successful  “traditional” breeding and marketing (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well Deserved Congratulations).  Recently Quality started a Facebook page and has seen their already great “brand” explode to thousands more people than a  traditional “ad” would have reached, again – at a fraction of the cost. They simply take a few minutes each day to share firsthand the great things that are happening at Quality.  This willingness to step outside of the “traditional” and into the “new” has Quality reaching a much larger marketplace than many even imagine!

This mammary system photo of VALLEYVILLE RAE LYNN owned by Quality Holsteins has been seen by over 200,000 people and shared thousands of times.

This mammary system photo of VALLEYVILLE RAE LYNN owned by Quality Holsteins has been seen by over 200,000 people and shared thousands of times.

You Don’t Have To Pander

Just  giving people what they think they want is a shortcut to banality, mediocrity and ultimately invisibility.  For  the dairy cattle magazine world that means doing the same rote  coverage of all the same events, year after  year.  These magazines are living on borrowed time.  For dairy breeders, it  means putting up  the same boring ads every month reaching the  same ad readers  of the past 20 years and expecting them to purchase from you.  This segment has not been inspired to   buy before. What makes you think  things are going to change now?

Stop pandering to past  perceptions.  The Bullvine is living proof that you don’t need everyone to love you and your work.  When you focus on the out-there, the passionate and  changing  segment of the industry,  you are focusing on issues that generate emotion and targeted reaction.  You then can highlight the  extraordinary  – and watch it spread -instead of watering everything down to the status quo.

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.

Take our recent articles about dairy cattle marketing ethics (Read more: Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct) .  We knew long before we ever wrote them that our position on this issue would cause problems  for some.  But instead of worrying about how   people would react, we focused on where the industry needed to be in the future.  And man already things are starting to change.  Pictures carrying the DMCC (Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct) logo have become some of the most viral shots seen over the past few months.  Breeders are not only accepting this new program, they are starting to request it.  And yes we know there is a very long, long road ahead, but these changes show us where the market is heading and early adopters are great about encouraging us to drive forward.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There certainly has been no shortage of reaction to some of the material we have written about here on the Bullvine.  But instead of worrying about whether everyone will love us, or who will agree with what we are writing, we decided not to knuckle under  to the average but instead to seek out the segment that some  would consider “far out”.  I am talking about those outliers in the dairy industry that are willing to think outside the box and try new things, to look at things differently and ultimately to drive change and make things so much better.  Are we killing the dairy cattle marketing industry? Or are we saving?

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

The Anti-Social Farmer: On the Verge of Extinction?

We all know what an oxymoron is: working holiday, tight slacks and freezer burn. Well here’s another one “An anti-social dairy farmer”.  Farmers have always enjoyed the “social” aspect of their 24-7 business. Wherever there are two farmers there is bound to be good gossip.. ahemm … good conversation going on.

Can we talk?

In an industry blown about by the whims of Mother Nature, politics, local regulations and world issues … there’s a lot to talk about. Facebook and all other social media are all about connecting (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook).  It is absurd to think that our already social business would not grasp digital social networking with open arms and tapping fingers. Think about it.  Today at some point you will “social” ize with someone coming in your lane. Whether it’s a sales person of genetics, feed, seed, nutrition or health … you will meet, greet and connect at some level. To me, it follows that it should be natural to welcome delivery of the same informed decision-making tools from cyberspace.

Social media is made for farmers

Farmers are completely familiar with sharing opinions, recommendations and trusting those who have their feet in our barnyard, feed alley or under our board table or kitchen table.  Couple this with the home truth that farmers rarely have the opportunity to do their networking on the golf course, a sandy-beach or at the gym and social media is not only the logical choice it’s the perfect choice!

Videos such as Ram Trucks’ “Farmer” Super Bowl ad have gone viral promoting farmers to 0ver 20 million viewers on YouTube alone

Not that it doesn’t take getting used to.

Those of us, who spend time in social media, tend to live and breathe the space as if it were real life, which of course it isn’t. It is however, a great place to build a network, to find like minded people and discover what they are working on, and learn with and from them.  Just like over the line fence or at the farm supply store or at a farm meeting. It`s a place to live, learn and move forward.

The goal is to apply what we learn to real life.

Like any social interaction, the benefit comes from applying what you know to what you are doing. New ideas for improving the logistics, cash flow, genetics and marketing of our dairy businesses are what we are seeking out.  Doing these things better doesn’t only pay the bills, it also provides satisfaction for those who love their work. Now we can come in from the barn after a long day and have the quiet satisfaction of having a day’s work well done and take time to enjoy a more technical version of “cow talk”.

“The most important connection in marketing today is business to business”

I would challenge everyone in the dairy industry to modify that mantra to, “the most important connection in dairy marketing today is barn to barn”. Numbers wise, there are not a lot of us left out there.  In times past you looked to the horizon and saw farms as far as the eye could see.  Today, it’s hard to see a fellow farmer from that viewpoint. It doesn’t mean the network is lost, it simply means in the 21st Century it actually is a “network” of connected internet users.

From Face-to-Face to Place-to-Place

We need to receive these “online” conversations in the same way we receive face-to-face conversations.   When face to face we can express our view and assume from the non-reaction of the person we’re expounding to that they support our position.  It’s too bad we don’t hear their report when they share it with the next person who comes into the milk house.

There is the question of tone of voice being missing from social media.  Anyone who has had the tone in one of their emails misread will understand the problem. It’s hard to convey the subtlety of face-to-face or telephone interaction using words or text only.  However, when was the last time your spoken words were misunderstood?  Nothing promises total perfection.

What`s Next?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already beyond the beginner level with email and Facebook.  Do you have a Website or Blog? Don’t skip this step.  Your website is the first place you can let the market know that you have something they’re looking for.  Even if you’re not planning to conduct all your business on line, you still want to drive customers to your website or to your farm.

So how do you get started?

There are online Guides for every social media program. Check them out and set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Of course (bias aside) you could check out the Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook.  The wonderful thing about technology is that there are many ways to learn the how, what and when.  A simple question placed on “Google” and you can discover step by step instructions to your success using social media.

The first step is always the hardest.

The neat thing is that there is always somebody close to you that has the expertise to help you join up.   While “joining” is easy, it is wise to consider that rushing in and then doing nothing is like that New Year’s resolution to workout.  You join the gym but your membership is as active as the clothes hangar otherwise known as your Treadmill.  While you won’t lose it if you don’t use it, remember that it is “social” and why join, if you intend to remain a wallflower?

There are two questions to ask yourself.

  1. What do people need to know about you and your dairy operation?
  2. What do you need to know about the marketplace?

The primary goal in becoming “social” is to have your prefix, product or genetics come to a buyer’s mind the minute they have identified what they are looking to buy.  Hit people with your features and benefits and you win their minds.  Get your story out there and you win their hearts.

Make sure that you share new births, fresh heifers, your genetic successes, your dairy industry issues and your pride in your family business.  You can never post too many pictures.

Continually polish and perfect your “story”.  It’s the social magnet to attract more business.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At the end of the day dairy farmers are definitely social.  We’re not talking extinction …but dairy DIStinction. Far from being on the verge of extinction, farmers are prime candidates for using this handy new tool.  In reality (a word overused today) we probably do better when our social life takes place in a variety of ways.  If we limit ourselves to one form … we limit ourselves period.  Let’s get social.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



SHAKE, SIZZLE and FRY! – Social Media in Agriculture is Heating Up!

Several years ago, the marketing team I worked with was led by a gentleman who loved to use the quote, “When you’re selling, don’t sell the steak sell the sizzle.” Although celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford was a keynote speaker at Canadian Dairy Xpo, the Dairy Classroom got cooking early with Billy Frey’s on-farm social media presentation. The dynamic Frey is the Senior Vice President of Alltech Ag Network and he really knows how to sell the sizzle. He grabbed attention early with on-line streaming of his presentation and one-liners like, “What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook” which caught and held the attention of the standing room only audience.

Lyons, TVs and Broadcasts – Oh My!

Alltech Ag Network, as envisioned by its founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons, has always been a company built on relationships explains Billy.  “We knew if we could build a relationship, we could learn of someone’s problems.  Once we knew the problem, we could find a solution.  About 2 years ago, we spoke with our friend Jim Host.  Jim is known as the grandfather of sports marketing for the programs he and his company (Host Communications) put together for the NCAA.  In fact, Jim was just inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, not for his play, but for his contributions to the game, principally setting up the NCAA corporate partner program.” This dream team was primed for what was about to happen.

It’s iHigh Time for Ag

Frey outlines the serendipity. “Jim Host had started a new company called  This was an online TV company that broadcast high school sporting events.  The idea was simple:  iHigh put the Production Truck that you see at major sporting events into a computer and let the schools broadcast their own games.  The schools could generate revenue through advertising, which proved quite profitable.  Jim and Dr. Lyons thought “Why not agriculture?”  That was the first step and then “Alltech bought the rights to agriculture and began engaging Ag groups (FFA, rodeo organizations, horse shows, etc) to broadcast their events on iHigh.” This was a key and very logical piece according to Frey, “Agriculture has such a great story to tell, and who better to tell it than the participants themselves?”

A Communication Cover-All for Ag

As with any great idea once the pieces start coming together the momentum builds.  Frey shares this synopsis of events. “Shortly thereafter we entered into discussions with RFD-TV.  Patrick Gottsch, the founder of RFD-TV had been ‘telling ag’s story” for many years and he was looking to move into the online world.  Once he met with Jim Host and Pearse Lyons and learned about the technology, a partnership was formed.  Now, all RFD-TV content can be found online by going to  Patrick and RFD-TV have given a voice to the smaller events that might not be on network television.  Not only do they provide great coverage to their 65 million subscribers, but they also direct them to whereby fans of RFD-TV can watch even more Ag content online.” Social media was on the move and the potential it was facing, meant a lot to Billy Frey.

Frey Gets Plugged In

billy-frey-ipad_jpg-400x286[1]The timing was right for Frey who had graduated from Centre College in 1998 with a degree in International Economics. He outlines his career path, “From there I worked in a bank.  The banking business didn’t enthuse me so I applied for a job with this international animal health company called Alltech.  I had never heard of it, but after interviewing, seeing the marketing philosophy, etc, I realized that this is something that I could get into.  I’ve been with Alltech for 14 years.  When I started we were an $85M company with about 500 people.  Now, we should hit about $800M in annual sales with 3000 employees.”

Computer Traffic Increase on the Information Highway

To date we have more than 300 organizations or groups broadcasting live events online.  Our traffic continues to grow, as people watch signature events like the FFA National Convention, the National HS Rodeo Finals, and more online.  With the world, in particular the world’s youth, watching video online we have seen a 4-fold increase in traffic online.”

Watch! It`s Alive!

Frey confirms that the online Ag content that will be provided by the partnership between Alltech and RFD-TV, utilizing the technology, will continue to grow.  “Last year 12 state FFA conventions were broadcast live online.  This year, we expect 30 state conventions to be broadcast online.  We expect more rodeos, more equestrian competitions, and of course, all the same great RFD-TV content to be available online.  No longer does mom and dad have to wonder what’s going on at the FFA Convention.  They can tune in.  No longer does Grandma and Grandpa have to look at pictures of their grandchild win an award or compete in a rodeo…they can watch it live.”

Technology is Smokin’

As an observer of change Frey joins the rest of us in awe at the rapidly changing social media scene, “The rise and adoption of technology has been first and foremost of the changes I’ve witnessed.  The world is at our fingertips, so that leads to infinite possibilities.  Consumer attitudes have shifted.  Globally we’re taking an interest in what’s in our food and how is it produced.  Look at what’s happening in Europe right now with the horse meat situation.  People want to know what’s in their food and when they’re duped, they revolt.  Along with oxygen and water, it’s one of the three most important things in life.”

Family Matters. They’ve Got Freys with That!

Speaking of important things in life Frey affirms his appreciation for the Alltech philosophy of marketing through education and, he adds, “our goal of helping to feed the world while at the same time educating people as to where their food comes from”.  Frey admits  that his  current role  as Senior Vice President of the Alltech Ag Network is his biggest challenge to date but then, in his branded positive style adds,” Like most great challenges, it’s the most rewarding.” Nevertheless it isn’t Frey’s biggest success story, “Personally, in the past 5 years I’ve met the love of my life, gotten married, and last June, became a father to a beautiful baby girl.  That’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever done.”

It’s Fast. It’s Instant. It’s Ready to Serve.

There’s another old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” However, everyone knows that’s where the action is. A few minutes of listening to Billy Frey confirms that social media is the kitchen and you become a believer that this company has also found the “secret ingredient”. Frey looks into the future for us. “I see traceability and value added products coming to the forefront.  I want to know who produced this milk I’m drinking and what went into the ice cream or the cheese I’m eating (too much of by the way).  Why can’t I just use my phone, scan the carton and see the farmer?  I’m in agriculture so I trust those who provide me food.  Most people don’t have the good fortune of working in our industry, so they don’t know how milk is made.  When they don’t know, they do two things:  find out for themselves or assume the worst.  Since the internet has given us instant information, people trust whatever comes up first on a Google search.  People want to know where their milk comes from, so let’s tell them.  We have every reason to do it and zero reasons not to.” The recipe for success!


Thanks to our look at marketing through the eyes of “Shake Sizzle and Frey” we have learned that, social media is the means whereby, the farm, the farmer and agriculture are no longer anonymous.  People are eager to get to know and like who is growing their food.  The Bullvine thinks that Alltech is one of the first companies to turn up the heat on Ag sizzle. If you are still waiting for a taste test, you could not only miss the heat, but the entire kitchen altogether.  Go where the action is.  “Social Media in Agriculture is Heating Up!”



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



EUROGENES: You Love It. They List It!

Today Jan de Vries and Arjan van der Vlis keep their cattle connections productive through  Eurogenes the Netherlands based online cattle auction service.  Looking back, it`s easy to pinpoint their early interest in cows. Jan says, “Since I was a little child I have been working on farms. During holidays I always spend time on farms. I always had a special interest for breeding and mating sires.” Arjan too had a cattle connection. “Got my interest in cattle through my father with buying cows, he is a butcher and we searched for the cattle ourselves. Later on I became more interested in dairy cattle and in the breeding of them. Through practical training and family I got my extreme interest in dairy cattle breeding.” No doubt their joint enthusiasm for cattle led them to keep open minds regarding ways to be involved with the business.

Eurogenes - website

Eurogenes Means E(asy) Commerce

In 2000 Alex Arkink, a cow photographer started Eurogenes. Both Jan and Arjan were involved in managing the Eurogenes Sales. After four years Jan ws ready to take the next step with Lammert Hielema. The two of them who own Genetics Consolidated went forward. “In 2004 we purchased all shares from Alex Arkink.” Arjan is the Business Unit manager for Eurogenes. They were excited at the possibilities presented by this young company. “Eurogenes was among the first companies in cattle breeding to really use internet as its main marketing gateway.” Jan confirms their belief in this idea. “We have always felt the simple concept of having members consign embryos, calves and now also bulls to sales is a very strong one.”

Buy, Buy Bovines

Eurogenes is part of Genetics Consolidated B.V. This group of companies also includes Diamond Genetics, Holstein Plaza, AI Total, Holstein Select and more.  In a little over ten years there has been significant growth. “Eurogenes currently has 150 members from across Europe. Once a month there is an embryo sale and 2x per year there is a heifer sale. The next sale is in March.” Everything works smoothly.  They explain. “The Heifer sales work according to the Dutch Auction system, in which an animal starts with a start price and then goes down each day until a buyer decides to take it for that price.” They are pleased with the interest and report that embryos have been exported to 25 different countries.

Holland Masters Sale 2012

Holland Masters Sale 2012
Managed by Eurogenes and had the highest sale average ever in Europe with EUR 15.809

Eurogenes has Sell-A-Bulls … and cows.. and heifers… and embryos

On line cattle sales are proving to be dynamic for Eurogenes. “Current cow families that get a lot of trade done are the Atlee’s, the Roxy’s, the Ralma’s, the Barbie’s, the Altitude’s. Then there are always some specific cow families from a specific country like the Denmire Marie’s from the UK, the Rita’s from Holland, the WEH Janna family from Germany which can get a lot trade done.” The sales inventory has something for everybody.  Arjan gives examples. “Eurogenes stand for offering a wide range of Holstein Genetics, from top genomic females to show type animals to good families that a lot of cow lovers would like to work with in their barns at home.”

magazine-hotspots-covers[1]Eurogenes: E(asy) Commerce

Filling a niche and providing breeders with what they want is only part of Eurogenes success. “Eurogenes has been the first in the industry to start selling heifers on line and still has all the online record in Europe for sale averages. Eurogenes and Holstein Plaza together make the Hotspots magazine. This magazine gives you a perfect insight into what is going on on the main  breeding farms and what cow families are being actively worked with.” Jan and Arjan explain why they are on the leading edge. “Eurogenes is still the first company in the world to host online bull sales with bulls for AI companies. Inventing new things and keep going forward always looking for improvement is probably our biggest accomplishment.”

Don’t stall. Get off the Auction Block.  Just start.

With any new business there are new lessons. Both men feel that they are learning something every day. Having said that, they feel that you have to make the leap and learn some lessons as you go. “Our biggest lesson is probably that you learn by doing. If you have an idea, if you want to do something you have to do it and see if it works and then keep improving.”  There is always more to learn so Eurogenes is always learning and trying new things.  For example, Eurogenes is organizing a big live sale each year. Jan provides this update. “This year the sale will be on the farm of Eurogenes members JK Eder Holsteins on May 25th 2013.” They proudly point out that, “This sale will contain 100% Eurogenes member consignments.”

Genomics is Spreading the Opportunities

One of the biggest learning curves for any 21st Century cattle breeding business is the one presented by Genomics. This new tool is impacting every part of the industry. Everybody has new opportunities.  Jan explains, “Part of our business that is driven to make the bulls for AI companies has changed with genomics, since the world is more transparent. Embryo buyers in other countries than the former main suppliers of AI bulls suddenly have just as much chance to get a high bull that the AI companies want.” This is exciting for everyone. “People who want to are able to bring in embryos or a heifer to improve their herd. They can use genomics as a tool to make a better selection and make better matings.”

Genomics and Technology – 2013

The Eurogenes team points out that April 2013 is going to be interesting with the opening up of genomics. “It is going to be interesting how many things will settle out after this; how is the European Consortium going to respond, what will Interbull’s role be, who is in favour the big multionational AI company or the small flexible AI company.”  At the same time that this is happening, technology will continue to evolve and impact the marketplace. “Then we will see new things coming after Facebook. There will be new and better applications. The technology on pc’s, smart phones and I-pads will keep developing.” Beyond these tools, the trading word is changing as well. “The world wide growing demand for milk will create new Holstein countries.” Far from being overwhelmed these entrepreneurs are excited.”There are always more things that we do not even know about.”

The BULLVINE Bottom Line

The last decade has seen tremendous changes in the selling of cattle internationally.  Not everybody has the ability to manage a website themselves and attract visitors. Jan and Arjan have the expertise. “Eurogenes is doing all the work.  Visitors from around the world will see your top genetics with a great presentation. “ Today the sales logistics whenever you want to buy or sell are as simple as a few clicks on a keyboard.  If you are ready to consider marketing genetics internationally, Jan and Arjan have one final piece of advice, “Eurogenes is open 24/7 to advertise your genetics.” Don’t just love it.  List it!


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No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures

top13of2013The other day I read a comment that basically asked, “If steroids are illegal for athletes then shouldn’t Photoshop be illegal for models?”  This got me thinking about the implications for dairy cattle marketing as well.  As the Bullvine approaches the one-year mark, it reminds me of one of our initial articles, Has Photo Enhancement gone too far?  In that article we first addressed this taboo subject questioning how programs like Adobe Photoshop lets designers create anything the client wants.  Our goal in publishing that article was to spur change (Read more: Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright).  Similar to the way that Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big” exposed steroid use in Baseball, we wanted to spur change in the dairy cattle photography industry (Read more: The Big Bad Wolf of the Dairy Industry). The reality is that no cow is perfect, not even in pictures (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow).

The Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow

The Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow

If foreign substances are illegal for show cows, then shouldn’t they be illegal for cow pictures as well?

Like major league baseball the show ring has had a transformation in its perspective on drugs and ethics (Read more: The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Dairy Cattle Show Ethics).  However,  similar to the world of cycling, the dairy cattle marketing world has yet to see this transformation (Read more: Lance Armstrong, Drugs and the Dairy Industry) That really got me thinking that, if foreign substances are illegal for show cows, then shouldn’t they be illegal for cow ads as well?

Toplines that have had “hair” added, udder texture that has been enhanced and teat placement that has been corrected, all seem to be more prevalent than ever.  Don’t even get me started about how some photographers have single handedly solved many breeder’s challenges of getting clean long necked cattle.  Even the basics of getting good lighting seem to have gone out the window.  Photoshop has made it too easy and more profitable for photographers to do it in post production than making sure the animal was the real deal to start.

model retouch

With Great Expectations Comes Great Disappointment

In an industry that already has unreal expectations about real beauty, the use of Photoshop in the fashion-modeling world has made for even greater unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents.  But there is one big difference between the photo retouching of fashion models and photo retouching of cattle images – The models are not the product that people are buying.

Right there is the big issue that I think many people are missing in this whole debate.  While we have all become complacent about fashion models whose appearance has been retouched, we have also become complacent about dairy cattle photos that have been retouched.  It has come to the point where most don’t even look at photos anymore to gage a sire’s potential  (Check out our recent Facebook poll).

I can remember when we first marketed Calbrett-I HH Champion and we put a lineup of 10 VG 2YR test sire daughters photo’s together – the first in the industry to do so.  But I am sure with genomic sires being used on such high caliber animals it will happen again soon.  It sold semen like none other.  Today when a new proven sire comes out, you are lucky to get two or three daughter shots and that’s about it.  For genomic sires you are often lucky to get a picture of the sire himself let alone a picture of his dam (often it is a heifer picture as she was contracted and flushed at such a young age).

This has me thinking whether there is value in picturing anymore?  I realized that while pictures today may not directly sell semen or embryos, they do a great job of generating hype.  While everyone likes to bash some livestock photographers about the ethics of their photos, there is no question that you can share a great shot of a show-winning cow on Facebook and the thing goes Viral.

So what is the average ethical breeder to do when they don’t have some great show-winning cow but wants to market their cattle?

In thinking about this challenging question, I remembered what Unilever did with their Dove line of products when facing a very similar challenge.  In 2004 they released The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  The principle behind the campaign is to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves.

In the dairy industry three great ways I can see for this to be done are as follows:

  • Roy - ABS Global

    Show all the angles
    Instead of just a boring side shot, try to get different angles of your cattle.  Three quarter rear shots are great at grabbing attention.  Show multiple angles of your cow, in order to gain maximum attention.  It is also hard to fake a shot when you see all sides of the animal as any changes would be amplified when comparing angles.  (Read more: 5 Tips to Make Your Next Dairy Magazine Ad the Best Ever and All Talk and No Action)

  • Leverage the Power of Video
    There is nothing better than video to help you sell and promote your cattle.  It does not have to be some big costly production.  In fact, it can be much cheaper than having a professional photographer come in.  You can simply use your hand held blackberry or smartphone and snap some quick snippets to share with potential buyers on Facebook or on your website.  Even good quality digital video cameras can be picked up at your local Best-Buy or Wal-Mart.  Many even come with some basic software so that you can add your own titles, images, and music.  (Read more: Nothing Sells Like Video)
  • Share it on Facebook
    It’s really pretty simple.  Set up your own Facebook page or a Facebook Fan page for your farm.  Tell your story.  Did you have a great classification round and want to let the world know?  Share it on Facebook.  Had a great flush and want to sell the embryos from it?  Share it on Facebook.  Your friends will spread the word and before you know it, you too will start to have a loyal following. (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs to be on Facebook and The Fakebook – Our secret is exposed)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Yes!  There are certainly photographers who have held true to their ethics, however, it seems that they are now in the minority rather than the majority.  I understand that Photoshop, a program that I love to use, makes life easier for all.  There comes a point, however, where ease should not outweigh ethics, especially when you are editing the appearance of the very genetic product that you are selling. The reality is that no cow is perfect, not even in pictures



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



All Talk and NO Action

Magazine ads promoting your herd cost a lot of money. So why are you wasting all that hard earned cash with no results? The ads that get the most attention are the ones that are eye catching, keep it simple and, most importantly, have a clear call to action.
Roy - ABS Global

You Can’t Have a Great Ad without a Great Photo

There is no question that dairy breeders love looking at great pictures of cattle. Instead of just a boring side shot, try to get different angles of your cattle. Three quarter rear shots are great at grabbing attention. Show multiple angles of your cow, in order to gain maximum attention.

The best ads use images that are interesting and large! As a general rule, your graphics should take up at least a quarter of your available space and can go up from there. Small graphics are distracting to your readers and do not have enough interest to draw a reader into the ad. (To learn more check out our interview with the best in the business, Patty Jones, about how to get the perfect picture).

Does it catch the readers Eye?

Tha Magic of Francesca

Read more about “The Magic of Francesca

Once you`ve got good photos! Make sure you get an eye-catching ad developed to go with them.  Print ads must be eye-catching and attractive to draw the viewer’s attention.  As Pam Nunes, the designer behind the great Ocean View Genetics ads says, “Remember…the purpose of an ad is to attract the reader’s eye enough to get them to read it…and want more.” (Read more – Ocean View Genetics: The Fine Art of Marketing Great Breeding).

There is no substitute for creativity.  Yes it takes more time and effort! However, it’s required in order to stand out from the crowd.  With the major dairy cattle magazines awash with ad after ad, and row after row, of cattle pictures, you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd.  The best way to do this is to think about the reason why you are doing the ad in the first place.  Who is the animal? What is the message that you want everyone to remember?

The”cow” is the center of your story.  If the best part of your cow, or the point you want to make is your cow family’s ability to produce great udders, then make the whole ad one large shot of her udder.  Keep your ad simple and put the detailed information on your website. Remember you want to accentuate how your animal is different and why they would want to buy your genetics.

Don’t Forget Your Call to Action

Probably my biggest pet peeve in all dairy cattle advertising happens when there is no call to action.  What is the point of spending all that money?  Exactly!  You want them to take action.  That is why the best ads make it very clear what that action needs to be.

In today’s age of the internet and social media there is no need to try and tell an animal’s entire history in the ad.  Instead make a clear call to action that brings them to your website or, better yet.  your Facebook page to get further information.  On those two sites you can have more daughter pictures and the rest of the story.  Breeders love big pictures so why try to squeeze so many shots into a small ad?  Instead give them one good eye catching image, with a clear call to action to come to your Facebook page to see more.

Facebook really can add a great dimension to your magazine advertising.  Recently I saw the following ad by Posal Farms that really get’s it.  It has two great cattle shots, not too much text and a definite call to action.  Posal is really leveraging the power of Facebook and is running a contest where you can vote for your favorite (Posal Daughter Contest).  In their ad, dead center and clear to all who read it, is the call for the reader to visit their Facebook page where they can be the judge.

 The Bullvine Bottom Line

Magazine advertising represents a large portion of many breeders’ promotional budgets. It is no longer enough merely to post an ad.  To attract the buyers you’re seeking, your ad must stand out and get attention.  Most of all it has to have a clear call to action.  An ad that is all talk and no action, results in no revenue.

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

Want to take your ad’s to the next level, check out our dairy ad design services.


Stanton Brothers – Doing it right

In my career I have had the good fortune of getting to know and work with Ken Blanchard, bestselling business author of all time and creator of The One Minute Manager.  One of the great things that Ken has always said to me is that you cannot always be catching people doing things wrong, you also need to highlight when people are doing things right.  It’s for that reason that since I did point out the recent challenges Stanton Brothers had been having in proving sires, that I  also highlight when they are doing things right.

Under pressure from recent  publicity, including an article here on the Bullvine that pointed out that since the introduction of genomics the average Stanton Brother proven sire had actual daughter performance approximately 712 LPI  lower than their parent averages (Read more – The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling), Stanton’s’ placed an ad in the recent Holstein Journal with some interesting Facts and Stats – as follows:

  • #1 Red Proven Sire
  • #1 GPA LPI Conformation Sire
  • #2 GPA LPI Sire Released in Canada
  • 15 Cows on the Top 100 GLPI list
  • 16 Heifers on the Top 100 GPA LPI Under 9 Month Old List
  • 19 Heifers on the Top 100 GPA LPI Over 9 Month Old List
  • 3 Heifers on the Top 12 GPA LPI Polled List
  • 135 Head Over +2200 GTPI

I love that Stanton Brothers have taken this proactive approach.  However, it did slightly miss the mark as most of these animals are still unproven and the publicity was about the inability to convert from unproven to proven.  As well, many on this list are from recent purchases of females (Read more – Genetics by Design Crosses the $4,000,000 Mark) and not proven sires.

Nevertheless we commend  Stanton Brothers for taking a proactive approach to managing their PR and continued investment in top genetics. Everyone needs an action plan for dealing with negative publicity.  We would recommend the following five steps:

  1. Look into the problem
    Identify the cause, if it’s not obvious. Get experts to verify/debunk any claims/rumors before making a public statement. The best way to regain credibility   is to quash unsubstantiated rumors with hard-hitting facts.  If the bad publicity is based on facts as this is, best to move on to #2.
  2. Acknowledge mistakes.
    If you’re receiving negative publicity because you made a mistake, people will trust you more if you own up to any issues, rather than if you attempt to cover up what happened. “That way they understand that if there is ever [another] problem, they can trust that you can be approached about it.”
  3. Get on Facebook
    The vast majority of conversation these days is occurring on Facebook.  Instead of just hitting the few thousand magazine subscribers, hit the tens of thousands that are online talking.  It’s more than just having a Facebook page, it`s about joining the community and taking part in the conversation.  (Read more – 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs to be on Facebook)
  4. Enlist supporters to speak on your behalf.
    You can’t underestimate the power of satisfied clients. When negative publicity surfaces, your loyal customers are often your best advocates.  It is best if you can get these people to comment right at the source of the bad publicity.  On the other hand, don`t leave them hanging out there on their own.
  5. Follow up continually
    After the initial storm has subsided, do not let up with re-building your image.  Once dented, your image will be vulnerable to attacks for some time to come.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Negative publicity is never easy to deal with.  With the introduction of social media things have greatly amplified (Read more – How Social Media is Changing The Holstein World).  It’s no longer just a couple of people talking over the bulk tank, it’s thousands of people talking around the world.  When bad publicity happens you need to act fast.  Even for breeders who have not faced the challenge of negative publicity, it is still important to have a public relations strategy in order to promote your herd (Read more – Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).  You absolutely must stay engaged!

To learn more about how to get your farm on Facebook download the Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook

EASTSIDE HOLSTEINS – Where Modern Marketing Rises to the Challenge

For most of us The Eastside Lewisdale prefix is associated with the fame of “Missy”. Maria Jones, Marketing Manager for Eastside Holsteins modestly summarizes the connection. “Here at Eastside, we were lucky enough to have co-bred Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy EX 95, Grand & Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo and the Royal in 2011.  That has really helped our exposure and marketing, not only of the Missy Family, but of other families here at Eastside”. As Bloyce Thompson, owner of Eastside Holsteins, points out, “When Missy took off as a Jr 2 yr old, we needed to be able to capitalize, get on board and go with her success.”  The fact that Missy’s sister Amaze flushed well put even more marketing opportunities in front Eastside and partner Lewisdale (Read More – You Can Bank on Amaze to Pump up the Volume). “Our main focus has been selling embryos from well known families and making sure each customer is very satisfied with their purchase.”


Supreme Champion WDE 2011. Grand Champion WDE 2011.
Supreme Champion RAWF 2011. Grand Champion RAWF 2011

Viewing the Future from EASTSIDE Out!

Bloyce and partner Jamie Lewis, of Lewisdale Holsteins, thought over the potential they were facing and decided to set up a new company Eastside-Lewisdale.  They plan to have it underway early in 2013. One of their visions is of an embryo community.  In order to do that, they know that they have to plan not only the financial side but also how to brand their genetic products. “We thought about it and decided we need email a web site” and all of the modern technology that puts PEI fully accessible to the marketplace. Bloyce admits “We knew we wanted someone who had great computer skills.” That’s where Maria Jones came into the picture.

Maria Jones

Maria Jones
Marketing Manager at Eastside Holsteins

MISSY meets MARIA:  Behind Every Super Star There is a Super Marketer!

It wasn’t long before the marketing part of the plan was put into action says Bloyce, with the hiring of Maria Jones. “I knew Maria had computer skills and that she was between jobs.  She lived on PEI and started part time which has grown to almost two-thirds time now.” Maria has demonstrated her technical ability and how comfortable she is with global communication. Bloyce is enthusiastic, “She is a person I can give ideas to and she can take it from there.” Sales numbers are backing up the wisdom of the hiring a marketing person.”Since Maria started embryo sales are up 90%”
Eastside Ad

New Tools Greatly Enhance Familiar Methods

Modesty is contagious around PEI and Maria points out.”Of course, you have to have the product people want and be ready to roll.” As a marketing manager, she wears many different hats and faces the challenges and logistics of, not only marketing the products but getting them delivered. She notes,” In the cattle business it can be very complex and goes beyond the designing to record keeping, financial and managing the workload.” Time pressure is an added incentive. Bloyce states what he feels is obvious, “Holstein genomics is moving so fast that you must always be developing for the future market.” He gives an example. “Hailey has taken over From Missy so we must adapt to that.” Every tool is analysed and critiqued. “Embryo sales at World Dairy Expo time went well. We will likely try that again another year.”

More Information Sourced and Delivered with New Tools

Maria is well aware of modern tools. “We have been using Facebook and Twitter. It really helps communicate to our customers what is going on at Eastside.  They know about our new purchases and what embryos we have available. We report show results and just about anything else that is happening.” They see the potential of using social media for real time updates. “On a daily basis, we broadcast to our audience around the world what is happening.  It has been a very successful tool for Eastside.” Maria feels this asset also serves another valuable purpose, “It is a great advantage that we have two-way communication with others about what is going on in the industry.”

Good Two-Way Communication = Marketing Progress

Everyone at Eastside agrees that communication is important to their marketing strategy. Maria lists her favorite sources, “The internet, magazines, mixing and communicating with others at Shows and Sales are all great ways to keep up with the industry.” She is always eager to pick up something new. “I just keep an eye on what is going on around me and always notice everyone’s marketing efforts.  I enjoy seeing all the new ideas and try to understand why they thought it was a good idea.  I always keep in mind that they are in the same boat as I am!” She sums up the three L’s of her marketing philosophy, “I am never one to judge but I listen, look and learn!”

The Challenges of Dairy Marketing

In the fast paced world of modern dairy marketing it is important to know your priorities. Bloyce says the challenge is clear.  “You must always plan ahead and have the current product that people want.” There are the usual business pressures to keep costs under control but this team feels that marketing must be able to reach the huge number of potential clients based around the world. Bloyce recalls, “A decade ago, living on PEI was a major disadvantage but, today, with the World Wide Web, location is not a problem.” This opportunity also presents the main challenge, “We are only touching a fraction of the market.” Both Bloyce and Maria recognize that creating interest means constantly facing deadlines. For instance “The website must be updated 3-4 times per week.” Although that might seem simple, it too turns on the speed of responses to email, phone calls and messages. Maria acknowledges,”It can be frustrating.” But admits that “Marketing can be a fun and enjoyable career.”

Eastside Ad 2Walk in Your Buyer’s Boots and Walk Fast

Bloyce repeats business maxims we all know to be true, “The way that you position yourself, how you use words and how you treat customers are all very important.” He sees dairy breeding evolving to produce “a more functional cow with stronger immunity, better female reproduction and requiring minimum labour.”  Maria agrees that the market drives demand, “We have turned to more of what the market will be looking for in the future, namely the polled breed and genomics.” Acknowledging that everyone is not interested in the same thing she feels that “Eastside has got you covered” by providing show cattle, type and genomics.

Develop Marketing Skills Where You Find Them

Drawing on his positive experience, Bloyce sums up the best advice he has for those looking to market their dairy genetics.  First and foremost he feels “It is absolutely necessary that you have a product people want to buy.”  Once you have met that hurdle, he suggests “Get with technology both on the farm and in marketing.”  He points out what he feels is an obvious resource to develop, “Why not bring your children into the business via the marketing side of the farm, instead of just through the labour side.” He sums up his reasoning quite convincingly, “Kids run computers with their eyes closed.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At the end of the day, marketing only works if the story moves off the planning page and produces measureable results.  Eastside and Lewisdale are banking on good marketing based on a philosophy of “Listen, Look and Learn” to promote their supply of genetics that the market is asking for.  The future looks ready to shine brightly for Eastside-Lewisdale.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.




Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower

Growing up as family friends with Roger and Betty Dyment, owners of Glen Drummond, I had  front row seats for  the development, marketing and promotion of GLEN DRUMMOND AERO FLOWER VG-88-3YR-CAN 18*.  In reality this was the first cow family where  I was able  to see firsthand what it takes to be a top performing index family.  The lessons I learned in watching the development and promotion of Aero Flower and her descendants have been the most educational I have ever had when it comes to marketing dairy cattle.



When you put Aero Flower up against many of the greats, you may say her numbers don’t compare.  She never produced  an EX daughter or a breed leading bull, she is considered by many to be one of the greats.  Why is that?  Well in my opinion it is because there have been no better marketers of dairy cattle than the Dyments.  I am even seeing the same trends again with a DES-Y-GEN PLANET SILK *RDC VG-87, being marketed by Roger and Betty’s son David and Dymentholm Genetics.

The following are the two biggest marketing lessons I learned from Aero Flower and the Dyments:

Spot the Trends

The great hockey player Wayne Gretzky always said don’t go to where the puck is but rather, see where the puck is going and go there.  Roger and Betty knew this better than anyone.  Even when their cows were not  at the top of the LPI list, they were able to spot trends that would differentiate them from the rest of the marketplace.

First of all, the most forward thinking thing they did started with mating of Aero Flower’s mother to Aerostar which, at the time, was extremely aggressive and unconventional.  The breeding philosophy on their farm was to breed cattle that would score high on the LPI index while still  resembling  show cattle, thus creating the whole package and a product that was a stand-out in the market. They also had the added aspect of her carrying  red factor, something un-heard of in the market at the time. They were ahead of the trend.



In today’s instance David has seen the trend towards polled and was one of the first to use polled genetics on one of his top cattle, DES-Y-GEN PLANET SILK *RDC VG-87 VG-88 MS.  David purchased Silk at 9 months of age. She was one of the highest red carriers in the breed and traced back to Aero Flower through GLEN DRUMMOND SPLENDOR VG-86-2YR-CAN 36* who had been purchased from Glen Drummond as a top consignment in the Sale of Stars. While Silk is not at the top of the TPI list like say AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA or many of the cattle at De-Su, she is ahead of the trend when it comes to marketability.  David has kept Planet Silk ahead of the curve by combining both high index, Red Factor and polled in one complete package.  Her sons and daughters dominate the top of the Red and the RC list (GTPI).  Her son DYMENTHOLM S SYMPATICO is one of the highest GTPI and GLPI active bulls in the breed.  She has a red and white polled son (DYMENTHOLM SUNVIEW STARGAZER) that will be available soon that will rank near the top of the list – if not at the top – once he’s released for red polled bulls .

Everyone Loves To Make Money



There is no better marketing magnet than a sale topper.  While ads are pretty and maybe a few people might notice them, articles about your cattle, especially articles about your cattle topping big sales are what really get people talking.  In my corporate life we call this earned media versus paidmedia.

Everyone loves to make money and, if they see others making money, they want to get in on it as well.  So when breeders  consistently see your cow family topping big sales they take notice.  This is something that the Dyments knew better than anyone.  You do not  see one of their animals being a lesser light in a sale.  If they are consigning an animal to a sale, they are doing so expecting that she will bring top dollar in that sale.  Dyments were never afraid to make the tough decision to protect the reputation of their cow family.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Great marketing of dairy cattle is not about who can have the prettiest ad.  People may get awareness of your cattle through an ad but it will not make them reach in to their pockets and spend their hard earned dollar.  Instead, breeders like to spend money when they see that there is money to be made.  That means you need to spend more  time working on the public relations aspect of your marketing program than  you do on your ads.  The biggest thing I learned from the marketing of Aero Flower and now with the marketing of Planet Silk is that perception is reality.  If breeders believe there is money to be made in your cow family, they will spend their money. If not, no amount of marketing or glossy magazine ads will get you to the top.



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The Agriculture Industry Goes Social

Mashable – The marriage of agriculture and social media likely conjures up images of crop seeding on Farmville, but socially savvy agribusinesses are proving that the connection runs much deeper than the popular Zynga game. A 2011 study by the American Farm Bureau Federation revealed that of the 98% of farmers and ranchers ages 18 to 25 who have internet access, 76% of them use social media.

Sure, agribusiness often gets a bad rep for being “behind the times,” but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, agribusinesses have embraced social media as a channel that is revolutionizing both B2B and B2C communications for the industry.

It Starts with Education

The agribusiness social media movement is, in part, due to the efforts of groups like the AgChat Foundation, which serves as an educational resource designed to equip farmers and ranchers with the necessary skill set to engage with businesses and consumers via social channels. The foundation’s website is full of useful tips and information that can benefit anyone from Twitter newcomers to blogging veterans looking for new ways to interact with fellow farmers and consumers.

The takeaway is that it isn’t necessarily a resistance to technology that keeps a group or industry out of social media, but rather a lack of knowledge about how digital tools can have tangible business benefits. Marketers working in notoriously non-social media-friendly industries can learn from the way AgChat has made social channels not only accessible, but a place for focused outreach.

A Platform for Discussion

One way the AgChat Foundation is working to get people talking and building outreach is through weekly#AgChats on Twitter. These chats have seen more than 2,000 participants from seven countries and four continents. #AgChat is moderated by a different agricultural professional each week. Among the recent topics: the drought currently plaguing much of the Midwest.

Joining these Twitter chats provides participants great insight into the industry, and also gives farmers a chance to prove their thought leadership in a public forum. For farmers trying to build their businesses, looking into moderating, or even just participating in these chats can be a great way to network within the field and gain respect and recognition from peers.

Kickstarting Digital Development

Beyond the blogosphere and Twitterverse, farmers have tapped into other marketing channels to raise awareness for their causes. Maryland’s largest organic farm, One Straw Farm, has taken to Kickstarter as a way to harness digital influence and online fundraising for the development of two mobile apps. The first app would provide a way for farmers to communicate with consumers on a weekly basis throughout the harvest season, while the second app would assist farmers with keeping records. No enterprise is immune from the need for record-keeping, and for an industry where the bulk of time is spent in the field (literally), this app was meant to alleviate issues with recording procedures by enabling farmers to update their records from anywhere.

While One Straw Farm’s campaign has fallen short of its fundraising goals, a simple search for “farm” on Kickstarter shows that numerous other agribusinesses are having success using the platform to raise funds for farm-related business endeavors.

The Consumer Connection

The media coverage of “pink slime” has made clear the growing focus on the farm-to-table movement, giving those in agribusiness yet another reason to turn to social media. Ecotrust’s desire to connect professional buyers and sellers is what sparked the creation of their popular social networking platform FoodHub.

FoodHub’s purpose is to provide an online community that connects farmers and ranchers with buyers and distributors. With this connection, buyers — who can range from chefs to school dining service directors — can easily obtain background information and stories about specific farmers and ranchers, and their operations. While the network is currently only available in the western U.S., FoodHub presents a great opportunity for all types of buyers to capitalize on the farm-to-table movement by hand-picking the farmers and ranchers they want to work with.

In addition to using platforms like FoodHub, farmers are also using social media on a personal basis to tell their farm’s story, give updates during the harvest season, promote upcoming farmers markets, answering consumer questions and more.

Self-described “Farm Girl” Erin Ehnle has spent all of her life on a farm, and now uses multiple social media platforms to share her experiences with more than 13,000 Facebook fans and a loyal blog following. Through photos, tweets, infographics, Pinterest, heartfelt blog entries, and informative articles, Erin proves how agribusinesses are indeed taking their experiences from farm to Facebook,.

Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire!

The dairy industry can be unbelievable at times with some of the rumours that go around.  From who has found that 65 inch Jr.  two year old to who’s making whoopee out behind the barn.  Well not exactly out behind the barn but some of the things I have heard suggest that it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Therefore, when I heard in the spring rumor that Chris Parry was leaving Morsan I thought it was an overworked grapevine.  But then sure enough that rumor recently came true as Parry is going to become the General Manager at Westgen in September.

Westgen is a great organization.  We have all had the pleasure of working with gentlemen such as Gordie Souter and Harley Nicholson and have always had great respect for them.  Nevertheless, it has me asking why would Parry leave Morsan?

Could there be a better opportunity?

Remember when Morsan first came on the scene, spending lots of money on lots of high priced animals?  (Read Morsan Farms – Money Well Spent).  From the very start, Chris had been their marketing manager.  At the time it almost seemed odd.  Here is a dairy farm with it’s own person in charge of marketing.  Very progressive for the time.

Now we see Parry leaving, which has me asking, “What better job could you have?”  Here you have the opportunity to market the reigning Madison and Royal Grand Champion, the family of the #2 August 2012 new release sire in Canada as well as many other leading index and show cattle.  Awesome.

Do dairy breeders need marketing people?

Maybe the issue is that Morsan no longer needs a marketing manager?  For me, I almost find that’s impossible to believe.  After all, over recent years we have seen other leading breeding programs add marketing staff to their programs.  In my opinion, more dairy farmers need to think strategically about their breeding programs as a business and not just a passion.

There is more to marketing than just placing ads

When Calbrett-I H H Champion was about to come out, I learned then, and I know now, that it’s as much about the promotion as it is about the product.  There is more to marketing dairy cattle than just placing a few pretty ads in the major magazines.  It’s as much about building the brand and the community around your farm as it is actually breeding great cattle. Even if your barn is housing the best, you have to make sure people know about it.  Each one of us can name a bull that first came out and everything you could imagine was being said about the bull, the stud and the owners.  There can be as much time spent dealing with the rumors as is spent on creating the ads and marketing strategy.  The biggest difference we see  today is that, the rumour mill is no longer controlled by one or two competing  companies, but now has gone down to the breeder level.  This is because breeders can now communicate much easier with each other, instead of having the local salesman/technician coming in and controlling what is being spread.  Social media and email have changed all that.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The reasons for Parry leaving Morsan could be many, one of which might just be that both sides needed a change.  However, that does not diminish the need for all breeders to think about how they handle their marketing.  Whether or not you can afford a full time marketing staff or not, you need to remember it takes more than just a few pretty ads to market top cattle.  It’s as much about managing information as it is the ads.  With the addition of Facebook, breeders can both market their cattle and engage the community in the latest conversations.  Always make sure whatever smoke you create has fire behind it.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

Is Polled the NEW Red?

For years breeders who were looking for something a little different could use a Red and White sire. While this meant usually using a sire of lesser overall genetic merit, the resulting unique colour often made the reward worth it for many breeders.  But it seems more recently some breeders have moved their focus from using red and white sire to polled sires.    Prompting us to ask “Is Polled the New Red?”

Key reasons polled is the new red

  • Consumer Demand
    While consumers for the most part could care less what colour the cow their milk comes from, they do care about the treatment of the animals.  This gives polled a significant advantage as it does not require the animals to be dehorned. (read more Polled Genetics: Way of the future or passing fad)
  • Herd Advancement
    For years breeders have had the enjoyment of breeding for R&W calf, the motivation for such was mostly personal.  Contrary to that, polled breeding offers more direct herd impact in the need or should we say no need since you don’t have to de-horn calves.
  • Revenue Potential
    While the opportunities to breed some of the top index cattle in the world to red and white or polled sires has existed for years, for the most part they have been left as a niche market.  But as more breeders look to see where the end user consumer market is headed, they have started to more and more use polled genetics on their top index cattle.  As a result the prices for high index polled females have been sky rocketing lately. Ask anyone with a polled female at or near 2000 GTPI what kind of interest they are getting, and they will all tell you everyone is trying to buy them, and the A.I and embryo interest is extreme. (read more They’re Sold on Polled)

Will red & white survive?

This trend of breeders endorsing polled sires would cause some to wonder if that means the end of the red and white market.  While yes both have traditionally played to niche markets and there are only so many niches to go around.  I would say that for the most part polled is more opening up new markets as opposed to stealing the red and white market.

The other interesting part is when it comes to the show ring.  The growth over the past 10 years in the red and white show market has been significant.  To the point where you see more and more red and white animals that could compete in the traditional black and white classes.  Since the traditional red and white breeders do so for the uniqueness, I would think that this trend would just continue.  I have yet to find a breeder using polled sires to get the next Royal or Madison Grand Champion.  Polled breeders are doing more for economic impact than show ring success.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there is no question that in the past 18 months or so the demand for polled genetics has gone to new heights.  Prices for the top GTPI or LPI polled animals have reached outstanding levels.  Never before have we seen the top index cattle being mated to what was a traditional “niche” market.  While this will only have to rapidly improve the genetic gain and selection in the polled market, the polled market is very much a different segment of the marketplace than the red and white market.  So yes, polled is way more “trendy” at this point and time than red and white, it’s more of a growth of new markets than a stealing of the red and white market.


How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World

The days when dairy breeders could only find out the latest gossip from the local semen or feed salesman are long gone.  With the help of social media platforms like Facebook, breeders can find out who won what show or who just got the VG-89-2yr almost instantaneous.  The World Wide Web and more specifically social media have taken bulk tank conversation to a completely new level.

As a kid I could remember when our local embryo technician came in we would find out everything that was going on in the local community and then later when the sires analysts came in we would find out what bulls are hot or what gossip was going around.  I can remember that every time the sires analysts came in we were always trying to find out who the next top bull was going to be.  These days even the sire analysts are heading online to find out what’s happening.

Perception is NOT reality

The biggest challenge that has caused the dairy industry to be behind other is a perception issue.  For a long while many breeders thought, and some still think that, twitter is just about what people are having for lunch and Facebook is about sharing pictures of the kids.  The reality could not be any farther from the actual fact than that.  There are over 77,000 dairy farmers on Facebook, and that the average Facebook user logins in daily.  (To read more check out 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be on Facebook)  Could you imaging a platform more suited for dairy breeders looking to find out the latest news?

Then there is Twitter.  While still new to lots of dairy breeders there are some great opportunities for breeders to join in real-time discussion about the issue that face them.  Two great examples of this are AgChat, a moderated Twitter discussion that takes place every Tuesday night, and Bullchat that happens on Thursdays at 1pm EST.  Since its creation in 2009, nearly 10,000 people from ten countries have attached the hashtag #agchat to their tweets, or joined in to discuss issues and share ideas related to food and farming.  In addition, the hashtag #bullchat has had many great discussions about the value of A.I. contracts, breeding cattle in the heat, Genomics, and many more pressing issues.  All topics on #bullchat are breeder driven but have had some great support from the socialally enabled A.I. companies.

Dairy Magazines are Old School

Gone are the days when the few magazines controlled what dairy breeders got to be aware of and think.  In the past information was pushed on dairy breeders as the dairy publications decided what was relevant and what was not.  In today’s socially empowered day and age, it’s now the dairy breeders who control the conversation and the dairy magazines are struggling to keep up.

If you look at how many of the dairy magazines are using social media you will see that they are just using these new channels to push out the same old message.  They are not working at engaging in the conversation.  Instead of letting breeders dictate the conversation, they are trying to dictate to the breeders.  Check out how many of these magazines allow comments on their articles?  What are they afraid of?  Better yet how many of these magazines actually share articles online?  Alternatively, are they just using their social media accounts and their website to sell more magazines?

The Bottom Line

Social media is like teen sex.  Everyone wants to do it.  But for the most part nobody knows how.  When breeders finally get on to social media and learn as they go, they discover that it was not as hard as they thought.  The biggest thing I can say, just dive in, I am sure you will enjoy the ride.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Work like Mad and Advertise!

Summer is not the time to skimp on promoting your herd for potential income. If anything, you should advertise even more now. Start with free and easy sources and build awareness of what you have to offer. The following are 11 tips to help you.

  • Word-of-Mouth Turns up the Volume
    Experts say that word-of-mouth is 10 times more effective than other marketing tools such as advertising, special events, and direct mail. Always, always, always keep friends, family, neighbors, and others up to speed on what you have to offer in the marketplace. Are you putting up new facilities? Are family members winning on the show circuit? Have you raised your production levels? Is your farm winning production awards? Are you promoting bio-security or green protocols? Give people something to talk about. Better yet share it on Facebook and let it go viral.
  • Signs
    Every person who sets foot on your property as friend, acquaintance, business supplier or animal handler, should be able to see a sign with each animal letting them know who it is and why they are special. Think about it. If you are starting into genomics, polled cattle or red genetics, make sure that you have a sign saying so. Everyone associated with you should be able to answer the question, “Who’s selling polled Holsteins these days?” or whatever variation of the market you are targeting. Set up the appropriate signs and update frequently.
  • Go Beyond Magazine Ads
    There’s a very true saying that goes something like this, “If you can afford to advertise, you don’t need to.” Old fashioned ads in breed magazines can set you back $1000 to $3000 for each package. They reach a specific demographic and, not necessarily, the buyers the movers and shakers who are out there moving cattle around. Furthermore, although a picture is worth a thousand words, today`s big spenders want to get up-close and personal when evaluating their next purchase. Don’t rely on this resource exclusively.
  • Digital Marketing
    The opportunity to grow your business with digital marketing services has never been greater. What is digital marketing? Defined, it is promoting your company or brand by using all forms of digital advertising channels to reach new customers. Remember it’s the new customers that you want to connect with. It can be as simple as email, Facebook, or twitter. Every time your prefix is printed make sure your sales niche is there too! “Huntsdale Farms – Your source for Top Genomic Heifers” for example.
  • Sponsorships
    Increase attention and increase traffic to your dairy business through your association with 4-H, Holstein clubs and other agricultural and conservation groups. This next decade will see huge changes in consumer awareness and demands relating to food production and animal treatment. Reputation starts at home. Make sure that yours is associated with the good animal husbandry and quality products. These are the cornerstones of why you are in dairying in the first place.
  • Be Political
    It`s too late when you read the 2012 Farm Bill or the CDCB proposal after they have been passed and you see that it negatively affects your cattle business. It’s unreasonable to expect any political representative to be 100% aware or even 50% knowledgeable of what our industry is all about. When was the last time this person had any experience directly relating to agriculture? It is time for the farmers to take responsibility for keeping the communication going both ways. An informed government decision (that you have put input into) is better than one that is based on hearsay, pressure groups or political positioning.
  • In the News
    Agricultural is on radio, TV and in news headlines these days. It isn’t always cast in the best light. Make friends with the reporters who cover these topics in your area. If you have expertise in something that is getting headlines don’t keep a low profile and then become frustrated when your side of the story is misrepresented or worse completely inaccurate. Make yourself known to the local, provincial and federal politicians who speak for or against agriculture. It doesn’t cost anything to invite local media or agricultural representatives to your events but how often do farmers assume that they will just show up at that sale, cattle show or open house? And once you’ve extended the invitation, provide a two to six hundred word report on what happened and why it is not only great for agriculture or cattle breeders but for the community as well.
  • An Effective Website
    Nearly 55% of all small businesses have a website, but yet less than 2% of dairy breeders do. Believe it or not, it works for farm businesses too! You don’t need to be fancy with it or pay a lot of money. For a minor investment your website becomes your hardest-working employee, working around the clock daily to promote your farm, cattle and embryos. Your site can work as a super sales tool. 24-7 is the new advertising success code.
  • Be an Expert
    Are you an expert at some aspect of the dairy industry (i.e. polled, genomics, health traits. etc)? Write articles about your expertise with a small link to your website or Facebook page at the end. Are you a cattle judge? Show fitter? Do you provide sale services or buy and sell cattle or embryos globally. Be the media source for your market segment. As a professional service, you can position yourself as the go-to authority. It is all about positioning your prefix, your products and yourself for success.
  • Networking
    Online or offline, networking groups abound. Online, I would suggest joining effective sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. Most consumers search the web before making a purchase. Phone books are nearly obsolete. Magazines and newspapers are not 24-7 accessible at the touch of your fingertips. The world is now your marketplace, so you can sell your cattle or their genetics anywhere. This means more money, opportunity, and a more professional image for your farm.
  • Video Marketing
    There is a tremendous opportunity here. Thanks to modern technology, it’s never been easier to make your own video. You probably own several devices which are capable of capturing high quality videos that you can then edit and burn onto DVD or upload to the Internet. This is a very simple process that doesn’t take long to learn. You can highlight cows, heifers, show cattle or embryos. These videos can then be used on the web, at shows and sales.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

These days, dairy producers need to have as much confidence in handling their advertising as they do when handling their high-producing cows.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



It’s Buyer Beware

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a twitter chat about Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics.  During the conversation there was a recurring theme of “buyer beware”.  Whether it was about photo enhancement or sales claims, the ultimate message was that buyers should beware of everything they read or see.  The problem is – and I have seen this many times in other industries – “buyer beware” is no way to grow a strong business.

Technology has greatly changed not only marketing, but also the sales of dairy genetics worldwide.  You are no longer selling to the breeder next door, in your state or province, or even in the same country anymore.  Often, you are selling to breeders halfway around the world.  While this opens up huge marketplaces for top genetics, it also creates an opportunity for potential customers to be lead astray.  These breeders do not know the characters of the people selling their genetics, or even if they can trust that the genetics they purchase, there is the question of will it bring the desired results.

It’s About Long Term Relationships

For years I have heard of extremely high prices being paid for mid-level genetics, to markets that were not as educated as the North American market at the time.  Breeders would be more than happy to sell their cattle for twice as much as they would get domestically, and not even worry how things would work out for the breeder buying their cattle.  The thing is, those breeders who lead breeders astray now find themselves in a tough predicament, and those breeders who worked at developing a trusting relationship with these marketplaces have now found themselves in good stead.

Let’s Not Manipulate

One of the areas that seemed to be of unified agreement during the twitter chat was that of photo manipulation.  With no formal organization to regulate how photos are altered, and technology advancing so rapidly, photo abuse has reached insane levels.  To a point where it seems like most breeders no longer trust the pictures of cattle;  it has been said that anyone can get a great shot these days “one way or another.”

During the chat, it came to my mind that if we cannot expose those who are crossing that ethical line (note:  I’m still considering doing a “10 worst photos of all time” article and let the breeders decide who is ethical and who is not).  However, until then, if you cannot operate from the negative, maybe we should operate from the positive.  Maybe we should create a stamp or seal that identifies those images that have not been enhanced in anyway.  Yes, the pictures will not look as glossy or shiny, but they will help build trust, since you know what you see in these images will be what you get when you purchase genetics from these animals/breeders/companies.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

“Buyer beware” is no way to build a long-term business.  While you may make money in the short run, in the long run you will pay the price.  The industry is too small and technology has opened up communications around the world greatly.  The best way to build your marketing and sales strategy is to have your customer be your number one focus.  Work at making them into raving fans of the genetics they purchased and the support you’ve provided them.  While this will take more effort than the quick sale, your long term cash flow will greatly benefit.  Consider this a message of “Seller Beware.”

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist?

You read the claims in ads all the time, #1 this and #1 one that.  You’re dazzled with amazing photos.  Can you believe what you see?  Are there really any ethics when it comes to dairy cattle marketing?

Ethics are a collection of principles of right conduct that shape the decisions people or organizations make. Practicing ethics in dairy cattle marketing means deliberately applying standards of fairness, or moral right and wrong, to marketing decision-making, behavior, and practice in the organization or on the farm.

Wild West Shootout

As I scroll through the major print publications, I see a wide variety of practices that may not abide by a standard definition of marketing ethics.  Pretty much every add you see has had the photo retouched, the cow cropped out and claims that they have the #1 this or the #1 that.You even see claims to be the #1 Genomics animal even when they have not been officially released.

I am not saying that this is totally wrong.  What I am saying is that there needs to be a standard or mutually agreed upon set of regulations that all dairy cattle advertising abides by. Currently it’s still a wild wild west where the people who design the ads are able to do whatever their creative heart’s desire.

Photo Ethics

Nowhere is this truer than in photos.  As we have highlighted in the past “Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?” it seems to be a free-for-all when it comes to what some photographers will do to get a great photo.  I am sure in the minds of those who make these changes they think they are doing the correct thing. Are they really? Are you really helping the breeder sell more? Or are you hurting the industry as a whole because you are causing some to distrust the legitimacy of the image?

The New Rules of Dairy Cattle Marketing

As a graphic designer this excites me but as a dairy cattle breeder this scares me.  There needs to be a level of trust that readers can expect when they are reading these publications.  Some examples of rules would be:

  • If a photo has been retouched it needs to be identified
  • No retouching of an animal should be allowed
  • Can only claim to be #1 for something if it is validated by an official list
  • Unless there is an official conversion from one country’s ranking/evaluation to another there should be no claims made accordingly

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I remember when I first got into dairy cattle marketing almost 20 years ago.  At that point in time there was actually an industry accepted standard that all organizations had to abide by when publishing sire proof information.  But at the times have changed the rules and regulations have been lost.  The problem is that, with the loss of the rules, has come the loss of the credibility.  To rectify this, I wonder if it’s time to establish a new set of rules?  What is necessary?  What is possible? What rules would you like to see when it comes to marketing dairy cattle?

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

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

You Can’t Drive To The Future Using Rear View Mirrors!

By definition, being strategic requires that you look forward — identifying trends, opportunities, and threats. That’s how good drivers drive on super highways and it’s how good breeders keep moving forward too. You can choose the less risky route of staying in the parking lot but you won’t get anywhere. Here are a few ways to keep your herd moving toward the future.

Check out your blind spot

By the end of next year, even the skeptics will have to admit that genomics, smart phones and tablets are here to stay. The early adopters and best-practice breeders are using these devices. They love being able to see all incoming e-mail, social messaging, text messaging, and voice and video messaging in a single place. They`re using them as the new resource to learn about and manage almost every aspect of cattle breeding.

Traditional Marketing will Decrease.  New Marketing will skyrocket.

As dairy breeders zero in on genomics, finding the leaders, at the right price in the right location and instantly … will change the face of dairy cattle marketing.  The twice a year showcase or the every three to five years  reduction sale will gradually give way to a marketplace that is in “sell” mode 24-7 and 365 days of the year.  Sellers will move beyond single page ads, special events and the cattle ring for promotion as a whole new breed (pun intended) of niche players will be born with the intention of providing the best results from your advertising dollars.  The days of a few key players topping the markets with their well orchestrated, for-your-eyes only live marketing events will gradually give way to on line live video interviews, marketing and promotion one-on-one. Rather than the traditional “one-size-fits-all” advertising strategy, a targeted personalized approach will be required if you expect to have a reasonable chance to sell in the new marketplace.

Genomics will increase its impact by becoming more focused and data driven

Most dairy breeders recognize that genomics is a tool to improve selection. As results become more refined and defined the potential impact will have even more converts.  Global economic issues will be with us for years to come and that too will drive genomics development to target more and better ways to breed great cattle to their highest potentially in the fastest, healthiest and most economical way possible.

The Global Marketplace has attracted the Big Players

The continued growth of technology, social media, and easy communications now makes it possible a dairy breeder in China to come to your barn, see your cows and complete a sale with no middle men, expensive “tire-kicking” trips or costly international time zone, travel and financial issues.  Today it’s take-a-look and complete-the-deal. With the whole world able to look over your shoulder in your barn, big business definitely sees the potential and is ready to grab a piece of the pie.

Dairy cattle research is picking up speed

Remember the good old days (that would be 10 years ago) when we had to sit through breeder meetings and association animal meetings and hear about the difficulties of getting the right research done at the right time and at a reasonable cost?  Industry and government were supposed to be pulling together to fund research that would have an impact on more than the scientific community. Sometimes breeders were skeptical, or unaware, of the practical applications.  Remember CAAB?  Genomics has changed all that.  Now not only are the money streams more accessible and flowing, the really big players with the really big bucks are ready and willing to become the new best friends of the cattle breeding industry.

Farm Branding is the Express Lane to Success

You can no longer hope that a few expensive colour layouts in a magazine will give you the profile you’re looking for to sell those also expensive genetics that you’re investing in. Having good genetics, a great work ethic and savvy cow sense, is no longer enough to have you speeding through the rapidly expanding crowd where everybody says, “Been there. Bred that!”  The increased use of social media and digital marketing will be the new way for the cream to rise to the top.

The Buyer Experience

In the past, you knew who the “players” were and the rest didn’t blip on your radar.   Today, you’ve got one chance to make a good first impression.  You never know when someone’s phone will capture a video and or audio of your inventory (is that what she “really” looks like?) and share it around the world. You could try keeping your doors selectively  closed but that will send a message too and it could be a negative one!  You are caught between the camera and a hot place!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Forward-looking decision-making: Although hindsight is 20/20, if you’re moving ahead you cannot spend your time looking backward at what happened in the past. The dairy business of the future is following the growth signs:  market supply and demand; new dairying technologies and genomics to name a few. This forward-looking focus will not only improve decision-making but will lead the way to a future that is built on the past but moving way faster than we ever though possible.  Keep moving on the dairy industry express lane or you could be stuck on the off-road ramp or, even worse, left in the parking lot!

Will there ever be another distinct bloodline?

Before the recent Kueffner Kows at Cowtown Sale Horace Backus, commented that he had never seen anything like it in all his years!  “The quality of every animal and the homebred breeding was just so good.  Just before the sale started, I took a moment to walk through one of the lines of cows while it was quiet and everyone was already gathered in the tent.  I stood looking at a line of maybe 40 animals, and thought I was standing at Madison seeing that many great cows all together.”  These comments reminded me of the ones he made before the 1998 Hanover Hill Dispersal where Horace said, “In the history of the Holstein Breed, there have only been four or five herds that have created a distinct blood herd.  Today we are selling a distinct bloodline herd.”  This got me think will there ever be another distinct bloodline herd?

Over the years, the marketplace has changed greatly.  The improvements in technology have been incredible.  It is now easier than ever to market, compare and transport your genetics to anywhere in the world.  To get a better understanding how each of these will play into the potential of having another distinct bloodline, we decided to take a closer look at each one.

Marketing to the World

In the era of Hanover Hill era buyers did come in person from around the world.  The world has changed greatly with the Internet.  I often wonder what a great marketer like Peter Heffering would have done in today’s time.  The ability to market to a much larger audience through the internet and Facebook is expanding the marketplace.  You are no longer just selling to the person next door or in the same country or the few who are able to travel to buy.  You are often selling to people half way around the world.  And more importantly than where they are, is how quickly and easily you can reach them.  You no longer have to run magazine ads in each country’s major breed magazine.  Today you simply post a quick smartphone picture, or better yet video, on your Facebook page and share it with the world.

Cross Country Comparisons

One of the things that contributed greatly to each country or region having its own distinct bloodlines was that the ability to compare performance data on in each country presented challenges.  In previous generations, it was hard enough getting everyone to talk in the same units (ex. Lbs. vs. kgs.) let alone the fact that they had different methods of evaluating things.  Then came Interbull and MACE proofs. That started to open up the marketplace, but for some the confidence in the MACE system was not there and for the most part most countries still had regionalized breeding and evaluating systems.  Then came genomics that has given breeders around the world the confidence no matter where the bull was proven to use him on their cattle.  We now see that there is no longer a negative stigma in North America on foreign proven bulls.  Moreover, many of the great international cow families are gaining significant respect in the North American marketplace, especially as sons of these cattle have proven themselves well on the North American genetic base.

Transportation of Genetics

All the great marketing and evaluation systems in the world mean nothing if you cannot get the genetics to the consumers.  Artificial insemination had a drastic impact on the ability of breeders to develop distinct bloodlines.  Instead of just running your own breeding program where you sell the odd breeding bull, artificial insemination meant that when you sold that bull to an AI center, he would now be able to reach the world market.  With AI companies also becoming less regional or country focused and more world focused, that meant you could sell a bull in Chicoutimi Quebec and his semen could be used in Kamifurano Japan.  Breeders no longer had to develop their own bloodlines and could draw on the best bloodlines from around the world.  Furthermore, as embryo transfer technology advanced you could also import and export embryos and further accelerate your breeding programs.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Today breeding herds like De-Su limit the amount of genetics they sell and AI organizations like Select Sires are entering the female animal ownership side in order to develop a distinct product in the marketplace.  Nevertheless, I truly feel that with the overall changes in the global marketplace we have a much more level playing field through evaluation systems and technology and, therefore, it is highly unlikely that we will see the achievement of a distinct bloodline at the level reached by Hanover Hill.

7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook

While everyone knows they can use Facebook to connect with old friends or share photos with family, I am not sure how many dairy breeders realize what a huge impact having a Facebook page can have on marketing your dairy cattle.

Recent research shows how influential Facebook has become in our daily lives.  Here are seven reasons why your dairy farm needs to be engaged on Facebook:

  1. 77,000 Dairy Farmers On Facebook
    Sure there are over 350 million global users on Facebook, with Canada having the highest percentage penetration in the world.  However, what matters more is how many dairy farmers there are.  According to Facebook, there are 77,000 dairy farmers on Facebook, with most 50,000 of them in the USA.
  2. It’s Part of Our Daily Lives
    According to Facebook statistics 50% of active users log in every day.  Most cannot go without at least checking their Facebook page once or twice a day.
  3. Average Facebook User Spends 55 Minutes Per Day
    That’s nearly 1 hour per day, per user.  That is longer than it takes most dairy farmers to read most monthly dairy magazines.  That’s a lot of Facebook time.
  4. Average Facebook User Has 130 Friends
    Talk about a great way to get your message to a much larger audience.  Facebook and social media have the power to go viral.  Got a hot 2 yr. old you want people to know about, but don’t want to wait for the monthly magazine?  Promote her on Facebook (great example is the work Gary Hazeleger did in marketing Mapel Wood Shottle Lili or the work Hodglynn Holsteins is doing)
  5. Easiest Way to Keep Everyone Up to Date
    Unlike a website where someone has to come to your site and see what is new, Facebook allows you to keep them up-to-date in their news stream.  Once they “like” your page, all your posts and news items will be part of their daily stream.  This means when you post about that great new 2yr old or the potential show-winning heifer, you don’t have to go and tell them about it, it will already be in their news stream.
  6. Drive Traffic to Your Website
    Over 25% of our daily traffic to our website comes directly from Facebook.  As a new and fast- growing dairy cattle magazine this had been unbelievable in helping us to get The Bullvine name out there. (Check out The Bullvine on Facebook, while you are there, be sure to “Like” our page to be eligible for some great prizes coming soon)
  7. It’s Cheap and Easy
    Facebook does not require you to be some web design guru or computer wizard.  It’s designed to be used by everyone.  You can easily upload pictures, or better yet, a video (see Nothing Sells Like Video) and share it with your connections.

It’s not surprising that Facebook is so popular with dairy farmers, as dairy farmers have always been about community and Facebook is built around communities.  Facebook provides you not only the opportunity to share the great things that are going on at your farm, but also learn about many great things going on in the dairy cattle industry.  It also gives you the chance to connect with many dairy farmers from around the world and gain a better perspective on the industry.

To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.

Nothing Sells Like Video

In the past, there was nothing better for marketing your dairy cattle than getting a great photo.  It has often been said that a cow needs to look great twice in her life, once when the classifier sees her and once when you take her photo.  Today’s problem is that, with the advancement in digital photography, some photographers have taken it too far (read “Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far”?), to the point where many people do not completely trust photo’s anymore.  This is why, in the future, video will be the #1 way to sell your dairy cattle.

Video is 100% Honest

While it is possible for photos to be touched up, in order to touch up a video it would take more resources than any breeder or A.I. organization could ever afford.  In a video, you are able to see all the strengths and flaws as well as how your cattle walk and move on their legs.  Many times I have seen a cow that would not classify well for feet & legs last 5+ lactations, just because of how they handle their feet and legs.  I have also seen the exact opposite occur as well.  A young cow or bull that has very fine feet and legs that would score well, but since they are not very mobile on them, they don’t last past their first couple of lactations or exits the A.I. stud early in life.  Watching an animal on video lets you see all this.

Check out this video by of Venture Proxy PP-Red.  Notice how with just a little intro, some music, and a little time, they were able to create a great video that really gives you a strong appreciation for what the strengths and weaknesses  of the bull are and how well he moves on his feet.

Video’s Help Sell in Live Auctions

Not every potential bidder can make it in person to the auction where you may be selling your consignments.  Not wanting to lose out on this potential revenue, Ferme Jacobs has done a great job of creating a cost effective video to help show how these potential show heifers continue  the success that Ferme Jacobs has been having at the major shows in North America (read Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family).

The world has gone digital, and that includes Holstein World.  Holstein World seeing the demand for video has even created Holstein World Productions that does a great job of covering auctions (for a cost) that helps sell the animals to a larger market.  Check out this video in support of the recent Impact of Ada Sale

With no retouching and just simply letting the heifer be natural, the potential buyers get a great understanding of what the animal is really like.  Something they could never get from a still shot.

Use Video to Promote Your Herd to the World

Have you ever noticed that most major big brand’s and company’s front page of their website increasingly resembles TV commercials?  That’s because television advertisers have spent billions over the years on what they know works and grabs people’s attention.  Advancements in technologies and increasing connection speeds have almost doubled in the past 2 years alone.  Websites are starting to catch up with what works on TV.  They don’t do it with text.  They do it with audio and video.  They know they have only 3-5 seconds to grab your attention.  Therefore, I pose this question, “what is the difference between a TV commercial and the front page of your website?” You want to grab attention and prompt someone to take time and look at your cattle, right?  Well, you’d better have video in some fashion up front in order to do that.

Taking their use of video to all aspects of their website, check out the video on Ferme Jacobs website ( welcoming visitors to their farm.  By watching that video, you are able to get a sense for what Ferme Jacobs is all about and because they have broken the ice, you feel as if you already know them and have an increased sense of trust.

Video brings with it a distinct benefit in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your site.  Recently, Google, Yahoo, and other search engines decided that they would rank a website higher in their SEO algorithms for having a video embedded somewhere within the site.  They even figured out ways to view the text within the videos themselves and use that in search engines.

The most common way to have video on your site is by using a service such as YouTube or Vimeo.  However, you do need to be smart about how to use these services if you go that route.  Your view rating will be a lot higher if you embed the video onto your webpage rather than just putting a link to show your video on YouTube or Vimeo.  Besides, why would you send someone away from your website when the goal is to keep them on your website for as long as possible?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There really is nothing better than video to help you sell and promote your cattle.  It does not have to be some big costly production.  In fact, it can be much cheaper than having a professional photographer come in.  You can simply use your hand held blackberry or smartphone and snap some quick snippets to share with potential buyers on Facebook or on your website.  Even good quality digital video cameras can be picked up at your local Best-Buy or Wal-Mart.  Most even come with some basic software so that you can add your own titles, images, and music.  While I am not saying you don’t need to take still shots of your cattle (they are still needed for ads, and such), what I am saying is think about how you can incorporate video into your marketing plans.  You will be happy you did.  See you in the movies!

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

TAG – You are it! How and Why TAG Dairy Sales Are Successful

There has been growing popularity in TAG Sales and for good reason. TAG Sales offer benefits to breeders, buyers and sale management. While there are many similarities to traditional sales, there are also many ways that TAG Sales work much better. To get a better understanding read the following article about why TAG Sales are growing so quickly in popularity.

What Makes a TAG Sale Special

At first glance, a TAG Sale may look just like a traditional sale since the cattle are all clipped and trained, but, in reality, there are some major differences. The following are some of the key advantages of a TAG Sale:

  • TAG sales are typically 1 week long compared to an auction that lasts 2-3 hours
    The longer time frame gives both the seller and the buyer a chance to talk and potential buyers are able to gain confidence in their choice. Instead of having to make split second decisions as you are forced to in a traditional auction situation.
  • Buyer does not have to sell if they don’t want to
    I am sure there have been many times breeders have bought back their animal after a public auction (adding a new name to the pedigree temporarily) and even more times when breeders wish they had, TAG Sales give the breeders a chance to think about the offered price and make sure they are comfortable with it before agreeing to the sale. Frank Donkers of Fradon Farms points out “Being able to communicate with the buyer throughout the process is a huge plus.”
  • Expert Advice
    Many times at an auction when you are trying to decide if that heifer is good, great, or not for you, you are all alone. As Jeff Stephens who has run many successful TAG Sales points out, the sales staff can help you by guiding you through the pros and cons. While this may sound like a great opportunity for them to push the sales, many of these individuals know that, giving the correct advice, even if it costs them the sale, is far better than the wrong advice that tarnishes their name. These individuals are asked to work these sales for good reason. They have built a strong name that breeders know they can trust. They are not going to risk it for a quick buck.
  • Diamond in the rough
    While many of us have run the roads, hoping to find that diamond in the rough, show calf, or next great 2 year old. It is not as easy as it sounds. TAG Sales give a group of breeders an opportunity to get their cattle all in one place and have them washed, clipped, and trained to show them off to the best of their potential. This not only helps maximize the sale price but also helps build buyer confidence. As Barclay Phoenix, of Hanover Hill Sales and Marketing, points out “The worst case scenario is that for a couple of hundred bucks you get your heifer washed, show clipped and trained,” If that is the worst that happens, it is still a great deal.
Taste of Ontario - Lineup

Taste of Ontario - Lineup

What Makes a TAG Sale Successful

Running a TAG sale can be a little different as well. While it takes all the same marketing and promotion, Jeff Stephens, of Stephens Genetics,  points out the following key things to remember:

  • It Starts with a Great Line-Up
    It’s important that you try to get some animals that will attract all markets. Whether it’s genomics, local or state caliber show cattle, 4-H projects it’s important to have a strong lineup that can drive attention from many markets.
  • A Great Crew is a Must
    From the crew that is fitting the cattle to the sales staff, it’s important to get the best. Since a TAG sale is designed to help build breeder confidence, make sure that you have a crew that is well respected and well connected. As Frank Donkers has learned, “Surround yourself with hard working people. That will make your sale a success.”
  • Schedule it around an event
    In order to have a successful sale, it’s very important to make sure you have a draw in your area that will bring breeders. This can be a major show, meeting, bus tour, or even another auction. Many times two auctions in the same area at relatively the same time are great for both.
  • A Happy Crowd is a Buying Crowd
    Stephens points out that it’s critical to make sure that you provide the best hospitality possible. A crowd that is comfortable, relaxed, and feeling good is far more likely to spend top dollar than those who are afraid to even talk to the other attendees. Dairy breeders are very social so make sure your TAG Sale is as well.
  • Price them to Sell
    No one likes dealing with breeders who want twice as much as an animal is worth. This is where great sales management can help. They can advise you regarding the going price in the market and help you get a realistic understanding of what you can get for your animal.
Fradon Select Tag Sale

Fradon Select Tag Sale

The Bullvine Bottom Line

TAG Sales offer breeders a great opportunity to move some cattle as well as build their name. As Frank Donkers points out, “We have learned not to be afraid to take a chance and do something that you haven’t done before. Don’t be afraid to promote your herd in a different way. Make sure that you have confident and positive advice on how to run a TAG Sale. (which we had with Jeff Stephens). His experience with managing TAG Sales was invaluable to the success that our event obtained.”

It takes a team to make a TAG Sale a success. Assemble the best team you can and your sale if sure to be a profitable!

Check out our upcoming events tab for the next TAG sale near you.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old?
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Download our Dairy Cow Investment Calculator



5 Tips to Make Your Next Dairy Magazine Ad the Best Ever

Are you having troubles getting your ads noticed? Does the money you spend on advertising your herd actually generate you money? These are just some of the questions many breeders have to consider when they are thinking about how, where and when to place ads for their farms in the major publications like Holstein World, Holstein International and Holstein Journal.

Dairy breeders are busier than ever and you only have a few seconds to make an impression with your ad. You need to have attention-grabbing design that reaches out and draws readers in. The following are 5 things to consider when designing your next ad.

Contrast is Good

Mapel Wood - AdSpace is at a premium for any print ad. How do you get your fellow breeder’s attention when working with such little room? With so much to say and so little room many breeders try to cram in as much text as possible and as many different animals as they can. White space is also an important element to include in your ad. White space is essentially empty space. While it may seem to be a waste of precious space in so small an area, white space actually will make your ad clearer and more easily understood. Remember that, although you are trying to squeeze in all your information, a solid block of text won’t be read at all. Plus, if your ad is clean and uncluttered, it will literally jump off the page when it’s surrounded by ads that are not.

Placing any type in all capitals is generally a bad idea as well. Text in all capitals has little contrast, as all the letters are the same height. Studies show that people’s brains process text written in lower case letters much better. In fact, the brain processes familiar words partly by the shape they form when written in lower case letters. By using all capitals, you slow your reader down, making it less likely he or she will actually read and comprehend your ad. Also, although there are thousands of fonts available now, it is still important to remember to use only one or two in an ad. Too many typefaces can distract the reader and make your ad difficult to read.

Roy - ABS GlobalA Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

There is no question that a picture draws readers in. Instead of just a boring side shot, try to get different angles of your cattle. Three quarter rear shots are great at grabbing attention. Show multiple angles of your cow, in order to gain maximum attention.

The best ads use images that are interesting and large! As a general rule, your graphics should take up at least a quarter of your available space and can go up from there. Small graphics are distracting to your readers and do not have enough interest to draw a reader into the ad.

(To learn more check out our interview with the best in the business, Patty Jones, about how to get the perfect picture).


Champion - AdBalancing Act

Just as it is with a great dairy cow, balance is very important. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to center everything in your ad. In fact, it is often more interesting to place elements of your ad aligned all to the right or all to the left. Try to get balance from strategically placing elements such as cattle images, graphics, type, and logos in such a way that your ad flows well and is balanced across the space. If one side is heavy in type, place a large cow picture or logo on the other side. Most people read ads in a kind of reversed “S” pattern. That is, they scan an ad beginning at the top left and end up down at the bottom right. It is helpful to remember this pattern when you are laying out your ad.

(For more great thoughts regarding design, check out our interview with Pam Nunes about the fine art of marketing great breeding .)

Know Your Market

When considering placing your ad, it’s important to know what type of market you are speaking to. Each of the major magazines caters to different geographic marketplaces, which have different interests. When advertising in Holstein Journal focus on LPI, and type; in Holstein World, TPI and overall production, and Holstein International look for health traits and unique features like polled or Red factor.

Call to Action

When designing your ad, don’t forget the main purpose of the ad—to sell! You have to give the reader a clear path to take. This can be as simple as remembering to place a phone number in a prominent place in the ad. Alternatively, it can be more detailed and can include such elements as a web address or social media page. This should be both the starting and ending point of your print ad design. Know before you start what your objective is, and end by critically examining your ad to make sure that it meets that goal.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy genetics market is as hot as it has ever been. However, now more than ever, you need to get your breeding program known. One of the great ways to do that is magazine advertising. Magazine advertising represents a large portion of many breeders’ promotional budgets. It is no longer enough just to advertise. To attract the buyers you’re seeking, your ad must stand out and get attention.


Want to take your ad’s to the next level, check out our dairy ad design services.

JAPAN: Opportunity is Knocking

The longer you are in the dairy business, the more convinced you will become that, even though this is a cow business, it depends on people and the relationships that are built over time. For thirteen years, Bruce Smith developed a successful export business built on his relationship with the people at Genetics Hokkaido.  When he retired from the business, he passed the torch to Mark Butz, of Butz-Hill Exports in Iowa.  Mark tells how it came about. “Bruce Smith approached me several years ago about taking over as he wanted to retire. I was busy with Dairy Consulting Services; a nutritional consultant business that I had started, and didn’t feel I had the time to devote to both. Two years ago Bruce asked again and I decided to back off the nutrition business and take it on. I had met Tommy Araki and felt comfortable that he and I could build a relationship and continue to do business in the same manner as before.”

Learning from the Best

Good friendships and good partnerships are built on trust.  Such was the case with Mark and Bruce. “Bruce of course was more than a friend and business associate, I had over the years sold many embryos to Bruce and he had always conducted business in a fair, precise and honorable way. When we started working on transferring the embryo business, I got to know Bruce as the extraordinary person he was. His great mind, keen wit and willingness to explain the rationale behind decisions made him very dear to me on personal level. I sought out Bruce’s advice on many things and he (and Laura) were always very helpful.” When Bruce passed away, it was difficult for everybody. “Bruce’s death hit me very hard.” says Mark. “It also hit Tommy hard and through that experience Tommy and I became closer.  In a way, Bruce still guides me. Rarely do you find someone that lives their life with such dutiful purpose and strives to do the right things.  Bruce did.”

Japan is a Traditional Marketplace

In Japan, breeders like the same things that Canadian breeders look for. Mark sums up his perspective on the Japanese marketplace. “Japan to me is like stepping back somewhat in the Holstein business in the US 30 years ago. You see many tie stall herds, pack housing for heifers and now they are starting to expand with freestall/parlor operations. Input costs are high because much of the feed has to be imported.” He sees the Japanese dairymen are much like registered breeders anywhere, “They want good cows with deep pedigrees from proven sire stacks that will thrive in their environment. Longevity and high production with good components are valued where land resources are scarce.”  Examples of what has been sourced for the market are: Chassity, Barbie, Ashlyn, Atlee along with many national show winners embryos and daughters’ embryos.  Of course the list includes the Lyla-Z and Missy families and Lotto, Zita and Lyster Lyndsay as well as many others.

Impact of Genomics

Genomics is affecting the dairy business globally.  In Japan Mark sees the effects. “Genomics are starting to make a play right now. Some breeders are asking for higher caliber cow families and high genomic young sires and I think that trend will grow.” This is sending small ripples through Mark’s business. “While many things remain the same as before, with the genomics taking off some cow families are rising because of that and others are losing ground. I suppose it is a natural change.” He advises breeders to do their homework and study what the market is looking for.  He has a special message for Canadian breeders. “In many ways you are better positioned to take advantage of the market then we are in the States.  Your steady milk market moderates the income risk of genomics.  It is a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the market.”

 What sells?

Mark is eager to show his view of the market in Japan. “Show embryos will always sell as breeders are passionate about the show ring in Japan. Genomics are playing as well as sexed semen and embryos from good maternal lines and popular sire stacks. There seems to be a market for cheap embryos as well. Years ago we got away with flushing popular heifers because of the cow family. Today, she has to be an exceptional individual as well.”

Promote!  Promote! Promote!

Gone are the days when Canadian genetics practically sold themselves.  It is a competitive global marketplace and Mark urges breeders to do their part in successful selling. “Keep current pictures and production as well as classification records up to date. Tommy sells to his customers based on the information he receives from us so the more complete it is the better the sale. If you get a bad picture, retake it. Sexed embryos sell 2x better that non-sexed. use popular bulls.” This is great advice but he doesn’t stop there. “Call and we can discuss what you need.” Teamwork is an important part of the promotion process. You’ve heard it before, but Mark hammers it home again. “Anything is better than nothing. Provide pictures, videos, anything you’ve got.” Buyers in Japan want to see the best pictures you’ve got.  They are up on the latest show winners and are “all over that cow family” says Mark. “You need to have outstanding pictures.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When you’re looking to export to Japan you need three things:

  1. Top genetics
  2. Good relationships
  3. Outstanding pictures

Opportunity is knocking.  Will you answer?  


Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

Best Practices For Memorable Names

In the day to day business of dairy breeding there is one thing breeders use most but often take for granted: the Name.  Every great breeding – bull or heifer – starts and builds from the name. The average Canadian dairy farm has 175 cows and replacements.  This means you could be looking at almost 1000 unique names over a ten year period.  The potential for making a marketing statement every time someone walks through your barn and reads the sign above each individual is not to be overlooked.

In corporate board rooms, much strategy is placed on choosing the name for products.  Success is built upon name recognition and communicating with the customer.  “But this is a dairy farm not a board room!” you say.  Do you have a product? Do you need customers?  Do you want to make a profit? Answering yes to any of these questions means that the right name on the right animal will have an impact.  However, the time to be considering the best name for your new arrival is not at two in the morning when there is a big day of field work, a cattle show or any of the myriad other details that are part of the business of dairy farming. Keep the paperwork flowing!  For some this process is intimidating, or at the very least, irksome.  For others it’s a family undertaking that every generation has an opinion on – sometimes even crossing provincial and country borders to make sure their input is on the record.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

#1 Make it Memorable

Do pick a name that is memorable – not only for possible customers but for yourself.  We all know how impressive it is when a dairy breeder in the barn, in the field or just in conversation has complete command of animal names.  This means choosing them in a way that works for you. You might base your naming on a distinguishing characteristic (Velvet), outstanding trait (Milky) or something new to your breeding line (Opportunity). When it’s memorable to your customers they will become part of your promotion team. You never want them to struggle to remember “Sornostri”. If it’s difficult to remember, it is counterproductive.

#2 Stand Out

In today`s competitive global marketplace, standing out from the crowd is becoming one of the most important aspects of the dairy breeding business. Make sure that list that is always being tweaked and added to contains those words and terms that people are looking for.  Use a thesaurus, popular advertisements, famous sports terms or even cars to drive your name home with your customers.  Today car companies take a positive word  and add a vowel to it: Astra; Innova; Sumo; Omni.  This works for cattle too! But I would not choose Typo!

#3 Know Your Customer

You can’t expect to sell to everyone, so narrow down your client list and make your names appeal to that group.  Are they looking for type? Longevity? Or simply fame and fortune? There are names that sell the features of each of these market niches.  All it requires is some research, forethought and preparedness and, when that star is born, you’re ready with the perfect name – perhaps borrowed from a real movie star (Gaga) or from heavenly stars (Galaxy). Once you have identified your target market or niche groups, the sky’s the limit.

#4 Focus on Your Strengths

Make sure, if you’re choosing descriptive words for names, that they are ones that describe what you’re selling.  You are not limited and may already have a lineup that includes “Incredible” and “Invincible”.  Everyone in the milk business has bred a “Milky” at some point.  If you are a trend leader, you might want to sign up the “Gene” family who could include “Encore” “Copycat” and “Repeater”.  If fertility is your focus don’t miss “Isis” – the goddess of fertility.  Mythology is a great resource for names.  On the other hand, don’t use misleading terms unless you’re very sure how you’re going to market that all white cow that you have named, “Midnight”!

#5 Make it Marketable

Advertising is easier when the name is visual.  If your farm already has a picturesque name  then you can focus on enhancing that as your brand.  “Spring” “Stream” “Wood” “Hill” or “Mountain” immediately present a picture.  When you’re running to a deadline and a harried editor is pinning you down to your “message”, it will be much easier if you have considered this aspect of the business and already have a plan in place. When that new calf is curled up in the straw, that’s a good time to consider the sales promotion, “Put Magic in YOUR barn!” or use colourful money imagery, “Take Goldie all the way to the Bank!”  Picking the right identifier from the start prevents headaches later.

How Hard Can It Be?

Just like everything else that can have a positive effect on your business, naming can also pose some difficulties.

As the creative juices get flowing, you may recognize that controversy can be promotional. However, DO NOT pick a name that is offensive or promotes illegal activities.  This may work for your favourite rock band but “ROAD KILL” might not be the best association to bring to your herd.

Once you have picked a name, try to keep an open mind. Sometimes you have so much invested in the naming process that it becomes a hurdle in negotiating with an A.I. stud.  You are so sure that the name you have chosen is a winner that any modification seems like an attack on you personally and your breeding.  However, as we are discussing in this whole process of naming, the job isn’t done until the sale is made.  It isn’t a competition between you and the A.I. company but teamwork that is going to get your animal selling in the biggest marketplace possible. Furthermore, they know things like “Nova” means “No Go” in Spanish. I bet GM wish they had considered that!

The Name of the Game

In business branding legend Marty Neumeier says that good names have 7 characteristics. They should be distinctive, short, appropriate, easy to spell, pronounce, likable, extendable, and protectable.  Although we may not get to the stage where we can license the names we choose, we can use words, language and the proper name to enhance our success.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The next time, someone asks you, “What’s in a name?”  be sure to answer  “Everything!”


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BEWARE: Your Customers Are Also Your Biggest Competitor

The dairy breeding industry is like none other than I know in the world.  Where else can your neighbor be your best friend, greatest customer, and potentially greatest competitor, all at the same time?  Think about it, the same person that you are working so hard to entice to buy your cattle or your genetics, instantly becomes your biggest competitor the second they do so.

The dairy breeding industry has so many things that make it amazing that this just seems to be another factor to it.  For years breeders have had to balance this challenge of how do you make money selling your genetics while not selling to a breeder who may steal all your future sales away from you.  I have seen it happen many times.  Breeders who have worked hard to breed generation after generation of great cattle, and who may not be very well known to the world, sell some of their top heifers at big name sales in order to get their name out there.  What happens?  Their heifer is purchased by a big name breeder who uses their connections and greater marketing ability to become your biggest competitor and pretty much steal the market away from you.  Of course, you might be saying, “It’s great to have them marketing my cattle family for me,” and yes it is.  However, with embryo transfer, IVF and other technologies, is it really that good?  What is the 10th best heifer from xyz family worth?  Is it really worth more than the best heifer from a family that may not be as well known?

But How Do I Pay The Bills?

I get that you have to sell some of your best animals in order to make money in this business.  The milk check alone will not cover the increased breeding program costs.  I also understand that if you don’t sell some of your top animals you are really never going to make any significant income.  That’s what makes this such a challenge.

The greatest example of this was Braedale.  For years, they did not want to sell any members of the Gypsy grand family domestically.  It was easier to pull a pull twin bulls out of a 2yr old storm daughter than it was to get a cow purchased out of that herd.  Then one day, they start just selling a “few” members.  Then the floodgates opened.  Early on, herds like Gillette, Rocky Mountain Holsteins and a few others got into this family.  These herds where able to get way more exposure for their members from the Gypsy Grand family and ultimately stole the marketability of the cow family away from Braedale.  While the family gained worldwide recognition.  Did Braedale make as much money as maybe some of these other breeders?

Is there an answer to this problem?  Well in reality there is not.  You can always say that you must breed them better than the others do.  However, is that enough?  If you don’t have the marketing engine that these other herds have, or the ability these herds have to get the cattle to the top of the list, then in reality you have just sold your best cow to your biggest competitor.


Does that mean you should never sell your genetics?  Well that is not financially an option.  What it does mean is that, if you are going to play in the genetic sales game, you better be prepared to enter it full throttle.  You need to not only breed great cattle, but you need to make sure you are able to market your genetics just as aggressively.


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USA v.s. Canada: Which system is more marketing friendly

Every genetic evaluation round I am reminded of some of the major differences between the different support systems breeders have around the world.  Breeding great cattle can be challenging enough, but having a great support and marketing system around them can help greatly.  With this in mind, I take a look at the differences that breeders on both sides of the CAN-USA border have available to them.

Genetic Evaluations

Probably the most glaring difference that comes to light for me is the difference in availability of information.  While both Canadian Diary Network (CDN) and USDA Animal Improvement Laboratory do a great job of calculation the genetic evaluations.  There could not be a greater difference in how they share that information with breeders.  USDA does provide the basic top lists, but if you want to get the top TPI list you need to go to Holstein USA.  Even there you can only get the top TPI™ lists for domestic and International bulls.

Conversely, CDN provides the following at 8 am proof day for each release (for all breeds as well):

  • Genetic Evaluation Highlights
  • Top Bull Lists for
    • LPI
    • Milk
    • Fat
    • Protein
    • Conformation
    • MACE
    • Genomic Young Sires
  • Top Cow Lists for
    • LPI
    • Milk
    • Fat
    • Protein
    • Conformation
    • Genomic Heifers

Big deal you say!  Well actually, it is a big deal.  The ability to have such detailed information at the time of release gives A.I. companies marketing Canadian proven sires and breeders a great advantage over their competitors.  They can have detailed analysis of what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s happening long before most other countries even have the list of top bulls.

Animal Inquires

Probably one of my biggest challenges between the two systems is the general access to information for researching cow families and top genetics.  This really comes down to Holstein Canada vs. Holstein USA.

For free in Canada, you can get:

  • Ownership information
  • Production and Confirmation breeding values
  • Production and award records
  • Progeny Summary
  • Family Tree
  • Direct Genomic Values (for those tested)
  • Type Classification breakdown
  • Show records

In the US for $2 per inquiry

  • Genetics
  • Ancestors
  • Classification
  • Maternal Siblings
  • Ownership

This makes a huge difference when it comes to the marketability of cattle.  If prospected buyers can do a detailed search finding the specific animals that, meet their requirements online, where do you think they will buy?  Even when it comes to US sires, I find myself searching in Canada looking through pedigrees there and then only when I need official US information do I query that animal and purchase that pedigree when needed.  This saves me a great deal of time and money.


While you can argue the merits and weighting of each of these.  In reality, there is not a drastic difference.  The bigger difference is the percentage of the marketplace that understands each index.  Due to the sheer size of the US market, the number of breeders that understand TPI vs. LPI is far greater.  While you will find many Canadian breeders who understand TPI you will not find that many US breeders that understand LPI.  That is why if you are looking to market your Genetics in the US or the world for that matter, you are best to target the top TPI lists.

Canadian breeders and breeding companies also have the advantage, for breeding and marketing, of having only one combined index, LPI. In the USA there are two combined indexes, TPI and NM (Net Merit).  LPI contains the important heritible traits for both breeders and milk producers. Whereas TPI is directed at purebred breeders and NM is directed at milk producers. Another, not often used, service that CDN offers is customizing of a total selection index. I have found this service useful when comparing bulls.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It for these reasons that you can tell why Canada has such a disproportionate amount of the world market.  I would say there is a far greater difference in the systems supporting the marketing of top cattle in the two countries than there is in the genetics.  In a world where knowledge is power, the ability to share information with as many people as possible gives Canada a distinct advantage in marketing their animals.  I wonder is the $2 per inquiry that Holstein USA receives not costing breeders more in the lost potential genetics sales?

For more information check out The Bullvine Bull Book or our Genetic Evaluation Resource Center.

Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?

Some men prefer boobs and others legs.  The debate has gone on since the stone ages.  Modern photography can enhance either choice – or both. But when it comes to photo enhancement in dairy cattle, technological advances in the past 15 years have really ramped up the discussion.  Through programs like Adobe Photoshop graphic designers can pretty much create anything you want. Where do you draw the line?  What is acceptable?  What is not?

Changing Backgrounds

First let’s take a look at what’s possible.  The ability to remove a background has been many breeders dream. Now they can picture their cow any time of year when the cow is at her best and without any bad weather or safety issues.

The right background can be an art form to do  effectively.  Let’s look at how different backgrounds can change how a cow looks.  The picture below is the photographer’s final image sent to the breeder after picturing inside the barn (Please note: cow used will remain nameless since it is irrelevant to this discussion and that in no way was the picture of the cow herself ever touched or altered).

VG 2yr Old Base Background


Very nice picture of an outstanding VG-2yr old.  But let’s take a look at how changing the background can affect the look of the picture.

Let’s say we wanted to make the cow look taller.  Well then we would lower the horizon on this image.

Lower Background


Notice how the cow looks taller, and also that it does not accentuate the fact that she is a little shallow in the fore rib.

Now let’s say we wanted her to look like a show winner.  We could simply place the cow at one of the major shows backgrounds.

Royal Background


And then there is the ever-so-trendy, stick them in front of a mountain scene.

Mountain Background


All effects have their merits and can greatly enhance the image of the cow.

Composite Image

Shine vs. No Shine

Another effect that has become extremely popular in recent years is the ability to enhance the colour saturation and add “shine” to the images.  Here are the exact same 2 pictures with just the saturation and the colour range enhanced.

Notice how the enhanced picture on the right jumps out at you with more clarity and detail and her udder shows much greater veination.  The cow herself was not altered in anyway, but enhancing the tonal range that is already in the image, you are able to make sure all the details that make that cow great show up.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Ultimately it comes down to the ethics of the designer or photographer who is working with the image.  My position has always been, as long as the cow herself has not been altered then it’s okay.  Please understand in all these images the conformation of the cow has not been changed in any way. That means changing backgrounds and enhancing shine are where we draw the line.  In an era where social media and breeders chat is easy and instantaneous, having an image of a cow that the cow cannot live up to does not do anyone any good.    That means you need to work with the greatest photographer, not the one that is great in Photoshop, but rather that one that understands how to get the best possible original image.

What are your thoughts?  Please share in comments box below.

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Dairy Cattle Marketing Lessons from Lady Gaga

Now I know the title may sound cheesy, but there are actually some important lessons that many breeders can learn from Lady Gaga when marketing their dairy cattle.  She speaks to her audience with understanding and connects with them in a very personal way.  Instead of just saying here is my song now buy it, Lady Gaga is relentless on building her brand and making sure she has a message that resonates with her audience.

The following are some lessons many marketing lessons dairy breeders can learn from Lady Gaga:

  • Don’t be afraid to have an opinion
    Lady Gaga regularly speaks out on any issue she feels passionate about.  In doing so, she not only keeps herself in the public eye but she is attracting the right kind of people for her type of music.  Remember a couple of years back when she wore a dress made out of meat?  Yeah, she probably ticked off more than a few animal rights groups, but her flaunting about in that dress made the news for several days.  The point is, Lady Gaga is not afraid to take a stance on an issue and make sure that everyone knows it.  In the dairy cattle marketing world, that means make sure you have a position that your buyers can understand.  If that means you are going to be the greatest source for genomic cattle than be so. Talk it up! Alternatively, if that means you are going to be the source for great show cattle, than make sure your market knows.  Stand up and stand out! You cannot be the jack-of-all-trades who does everything ok but nothing special.  You need to make sure that your prospective buyers know why you are special and what you stand for.
  • Leverage the power of social media
    Lady Gaga has over 20 million Twitter followers and over 48 million Facebook fans.  That does not come by accident.  She works very hard to engage her community.  She personally tweets directly to her fans and is always engaging them in conversation.  She understands that the power of her brand is to engage her community.  A lesson many dairy breeders need to remember.  Dairy farming has always been about community.  It’s probably the greatest thing that keeps most breeders so passionate about their work.  The biggest change is how social media, especially Facebook has taken the community online.  The numbers of breeders that are on Facebook is outstanding.  While they maybe got on Facebook for family or personal reasons, it’s hard for them not to let their passion for breeding great cattle show.  You need to leverage the power of social media to join the community and engage them.  In doing so you will probably find the greatest source for information as well as reward for the work that you do.
  • Be Different
    Lady Gaga has built her brand by being different.  Not because she wants to be something she wasn’t.  Actually, it’s the exact opposite.  Lady Gaga is was not afraid to be herself and promote not just how she is cool and hip, but rather how she is different.  Many dairy breeders are too afraid to stand out as different and  they just become one of the many.  With so many breeders wanting to market their genetics these days, you need to make sure that you have something  unique to offer the marketplace.  Embryo transfer and especially IVF has caused a flood of top genetics into the market place.  Knowing how you are different and  letting other breeders know how you’re different can make a big difference in your profitability. What’s your difference?
  • Produce killer product
    Gaga writes amazing music.  She doesn’t produce a huge amount of music, but everything she does is done very well and is worth talking about.  The same is true for your breeding program.  There is no substitute for breeding great cattle.  With genomics and the increased access to information (such as,, locator lists, etc.) great cattle can always be found.  You can have the greatest marketing in the world, but if you don’t have great genetics to offer, it will not have the same effect.

Gaga and the PR and marketing experts behind her did not reinvent the wheel.  They just took what works best and used it to their advantage.  The same is true when it comes to marketing your breeding program.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, what you need to do is use the tools that are out there to make sure your marketplace knows who you are, how you’re different and why they should buy from you.  Determine  what you stand for and the larger impact it has on the market outside of the individual animals you have for sale. What Lady Gaga teaches us is that it’s important to stand out in the crowd!

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