Archive for Social Media

Has Social Media Infected the Tanbark Trail?

For years, there has been considerable debate about how the person who leads or owns a cow influences a judge’s opinion and how the judge places the class.  With the introduction of Facebook and other social media platforms, this debate has been amplified.  Which leads to the question “Have Facebook and other social media platforms infected the show ring?”

There is no doubt that Facebook is the most powerful social tool in the history of mankind.  The ability for Facebook to connect people with similar interests from around the world is unmatched.  Previously, when you wanted to know the results of a cattle show or how a particular cow looked at a show, you had to call someone you knew who was there or wait at least a month to see the results and a few posed pictures in a print magazine.  Now, in the age of social media, pictures are placed on Facebook even before the class has exited the ring. Larger shows now offer live streaming of the show and those at the show and/or watching the show online post their comments in real time.

How the World has changed

All this has significantly changed both the method and the speed that show oriented breeders communicate with one another.  However, has this changed how animals are placed in the show ring? Ten years ago, most often the first time a judge would have seen most cows would have been in the show ring on show day. But today  judges have more than likely seen pictures and heard comments on animals long before they ever enter the show ring.

One of the great things about social media is that it has enabled members of a small, remotely located community, such as the Tanbark Trail, to connect and share their thoughts very easily.  Many top judges are active on social media and they see how certain animals are doing at shows and how popular certain animals are, long before they enter the show ring to judge a show.

Everyone has an opinion

In the past, when members of the Tanbark Trail disagreed with a judge’s placing, their comments would only be heard by a select few.  Now in the age of social media, their opinion can reach thousands in a matter of minutes.  While I have not seen many negative comments about a judge, I have indeed seen comments made about how certain cows where “gifted” due to certain circumstances.  This touches on the question of the integrity of the show ring and those who are selected to judge it.

It’s a question of integrity

The question of integrity is not a new one.  It has been around for as long as there has been subjective cattle judging.  In the age of social media the need for integrity has been amplified.  One of the interesting challenges with selecting dairy cattle judges is the fact that the best ones are often very involved in the show scene.  This means that they have developed friendships, preferences and opinions over the years. The best judges have always been those that are able to let their judging performance not be influenced by these factors.  In the age of social media, a whole new level of integrity is required.  No longer is it just the opinion of a select few, but rather the opinion of thousands that can significantly influence a judge’s decision.  Those who are of the highest integrity are able to tune out all the traditional influences as well as the new ones that social media brings to the table.

There are some who would comment that judges should not be active on social media.  I argue the exact opposite.  I want a judge who is involved in the dairy community.  All aspects of the dairy industry.  In today’s day and age, that means social media as well.  There are many judges that are very active on social media and whom I trust to have the integrity  to tune out what they read on Facebook or see online when, they are making their final decision in the ring.

Does social success influence show ring results?

There are some that would say that how popular a cow is on social media greatly influences her placing at a major show.  I would argue that the reason that most of these cows have become so popular is because they have been able to demonstrate again and again their superior conformation and hence have developed a loyal following.  There is no question that many cows’ show ring pictures have been able to go viral on social media.  However, there is a very sound reason why these cows have great pictures….they are of superior conformation.

One of the great things about show ring pictures is that they are 100% honest.  Since these photos are being posted online usually within minutes of being taken, there is no opportunity for them to be doctored or altered in anyway.  Hence, when a cow looks great in her show ring picture, it is because she looked great in the show ring.

One of the greatest pleasures I get from taking pictures in the show ring at the major shows is that I am able to get the same view of the animals in the ring that the judges of the shows see when they make their decisions.  Often I receive comments from people outside the ring about how one cow placed higher than another when from their view it did not look correct.  Very seldom have I ever had a case where these questions proved accurate. When you see the pictures afterwards, you often see that particular cows looked better from a distance than they did up close.  So while many will let their personal preference or influences affect the questioner’s own opinion, I have seldom found a case where it was not at least a tossup or where one judge’s decision on the day may be slightly different than another’s.  However, never have I seen a blatant error on the judge’s part.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Judging a dairy cattle show is never easy. Since the introduction of social media and the growth of dairy show coverage, the job of judging has only gotten harder.  Probably the most important trait a judge has always needed is that of Integrity.  In today’s social media age, the necessity of integrity is greater than ever.  Now instead of hundreds of eyes watching you there are thousands, all with their own opinions.  Facebook and other social media platforms have done wonders for growing the popularity of the Tanbark Trail, but it has also led to the potential infection by the influences they bring.  It takes judges of the utmost integrity to tune all that out and place the animals based on how they appear on show day and only that day.  And that’s exactly what the best judges have been doing for years.


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Looking to Get Ahead? You Need To Break Out of the Herd Mentality

Today’s dairy cattle breeders live in exciting times. The information and tools available are expanding at lightning fast speed. Traditional methods for improving herds and generating revenue from the sale of breeding stock have gone by the wayside. (Read more: Is There Still Going To Be A Market For Purebred Cattle In 10 Years? and Which Is Your Most Profitable Cow?) The breeding of elite animals rests in fewer hands every year.

What’s In the Future for Breeders

Until five years ago breeders limited the traits they selected for to those for which data was captured by DHI and Type Classification Programs. The future will be different.

  • Cow Efficiency Will Be Key
    With milk producers getting a smaller and smaller portion of the consumers’ dollar spent on milk, breeders need to supply breeding stock that are more efficient. Feed and labor account for about 70% of cost at the farm level. Genetic indexing for feed conversion and labor efficiency hold out great promise as areas where breeding could help. To date capturing feeding and labor data at the farm level is not happening. Some research is underway on feed efficiency. Stay tuned as researchers study these areas. However no longer will longevity be #1. Cows will need to be efficient every day of their productive lives. (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable, 30 Sires that will produce Feed Efficient Cows and Feed Efficiency: The Money Saver)
  • Food Safety Will Be a Must Have
    Higher and higher demands will be put on the quality of milk coming off farms. Even moderate levels of mastitis will not be tolerated. It is very interesting to see that CDN has just announced that, effective December 2013, it will publish an Official Genetic Evaluation for Mastitis Resistance. This report is well worth the review by discerning breeders. Information like the fact that for the best sires 6% of their daughters get mastitis whereas for the worst sires 22% of their daughters get mastitis.  These evaluations will be significantly more accurate that using SCS alone. Now that’s news breeders want to hear. Additionally it is quite exciting to read that in the future CDN plans to publish genetic rankings for other disease resistance traits.
  • Island Mentality Won’t Work
    Breeding dairy cattle will be just like running any sustainable business. You need all the information and you need KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).  Breeders will need all the details which include the relationship of a trait to all other traits when making breeding decisions.  Think about it. How much more valuable is it to know all of the performance, nutrition, rumination, estrus, body temperature, health, DNA, classification, financial and other management information. Selecting for only a few traits will become a thing of the past. On-farm data capture systems will be much more extensive in even just a few years from now and it will be stored in the cloud.  Are you ready for on-farm testing for fat, protein, CLAs, protein fractions, and hormone levels? That list will grow quickly. Breeders will need 24-7 access to data and information. Data storage systems by breed societies and DHI’s will likely be a thing of the past. (Read more: Why Dairy Farmers Need To Know Their Key Performance Indicators)
  • Get Used to Global
    The world of dairy cattle breeding has gone totally global. The current Interbull system for ranking bulls will be a thing of the past. Consider the fact that Scandinavia has had cow and heifer health data recording for many years now. Think how useful it would have been to use that data to develop genomic indexes for health traits for the world. The best animals in the world will not be limited to a few countries. Can you imagine only implanting sexed female embryos that are genomically tested and in the top 5% globally? (Read more: Who Really Has The Best Dairy Cattle Genetics In The World?)
  • Less Instinct More Facts
    We often hear about the art versus the science of breeding cattle. Well get ready for the art of applying the science. So much will be known about the genetic make-up of our animals that the breeder instinct will be replaced by programs that analyse and give recommendations to breeders.

It has Already Started

Over the past few years, the breeding of dairy cattle has gone viral.  Communication by hard copy is dying quickly. Communities of breeders around the world talk every day without even leaving their office or picking up the phone. (Read more: The Shocking Speed of Social Media and the Dairy Industry) No one owns the patent on improving dairy cattle. It is a shared opportunity taken by those who want to breed improved cattle and generate income from owning the elite. Oocyte recovery will be possible from cows and heifers no matter where they are located.  And new technology and information will be available daily or weekly not every four months as is now the case with genetic evaluation releases.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Now is the time for more global collaboration. Thinking beyond the present is a must. When it comes to breeding the ideal cow for 2020 or beyond she will need to be more complete than she has ever been before. (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow) If you haven’t considered one or more of the above changes you may already be in danger of falling behind.

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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”.

MODERN DAIRY MARKETING: Winning Hearts, Minds and Wallets

It’s haying season here.  A wonderful time of year for dairy farmers who produce the food that feeds the cows that produce the milk that feeds the consumers.  As we are watching the weather with one eye and with the other one on the cows and machinery, do we ever spend any time thinking about the next person who buys our dairy genetics? We love dairying and we do it to the best of our ability.  Our hearts and minds are engaged.  Do we consider engaging the hearts and minds of our genetics customers? Or are their wallets all we care about?

We have to be careful that we don’t think only of the pay cheque and forget that we are providing a product for real people.  In today’s marketplace we have two distinct customers.  First, the milk drinkers who we are more or less involved with, depending on the product we produce and what country we produce it in.  And secondly, the cattle buying customer.  Just as our future in the dairy aisle depends on the product we deliver, our future in the genetics industry depends on what we deliver and not what we can get away with.

The milk drinking public gets turned off by the media message of scary farm practices, rising health issues and poor animal care.  These concerns reflect badly on each one of us in the dairy industry.  We can’t separate ourselves from the message. Likewise, when it comes to selling cattle, we have to respect ourselves and our customers enough that buyers know what we stand for. If we allow ourselves to be the type of business where responsibility ends once the cheque is cashed, then we deserve to have our sales drive out the lane and forget us the next time they buy.

Dairy Sales Are All About People First

If you ever found it impossible to find out details about animals in a sale. If you have been disappointed after purchasing an animal to find out that there is an issue that wasn`t revealed. If you ever found that you were taken in by the fine print in a contract, you know where bad feelings start. “It’s nothing personal.” is the exact opposite of how you feel.  It’s very personal!

Good Business is Built on Trust

Good dairy business kicks in when marketers are smart enough and brave enough to work side by side with their buyers for the same end result – good dairy cattle.  When full disclosure allows you to make informed decisions, you remember it.  You will go back to that source again and again.  Of course, this means that a huge opportunity exists. You will likely do best if you avoid misdirection and pandering and instead embrace an honest approach to doing business. RULE #1: Build trust by treating your customers like respected peers and admired family members.

As Good as Your Word

Think about the last time you were impressed by how you were treated in a sales transaction.  It’s unfortunate that it’s rare enough to be remarkable. It is so refreshing to find your issues meaning more than a dollar sign and receiving more than was promised and not simply the legal bare bones. Today – especially with the instant sharing possible through social media – your happy transactions and your sad ones are shared far and wide. The word gets out and has instant repercussions on your business credibility and bottom line.

Marketing is More About the Stories than the Sales

Social media has found its way into the dairy business and is having a tremendous impact. Everyday there are new blog posts, videos and press releases. While this is fantastic for agriculture as a whole, it can be really hard to get your dairy business noticed. If you want to rise above the herd, you have to have a good story that captures attention. You need to share what you believe in, who you are and what you stand for.  The invisible face behind a magazine ad or an AI brochure listing is too easily lost in the 21st century crowd.

Today You DON’T Get What You Pay to Advertise For

In the not too distant past dairy players where the ones with the money to step up to the marketing table. It took advertising money to make money. Today, with social media, a business of any size can connect with customers and do it without spending a dime on paid advertising. Social media has changed the game and now anyone can compete regardless of the size of their marketing budget.

Where to Go?  What to do?

No sooner do you get comfortable with one or two pieces of modern technology, then a whole handful more present themselves to your flying fingers. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube have totally changed the relationship we have with present and future customers.  It can be challenging to figure out where to focus your time and energy. Here again it’s not the single choice of one site over another.  In easily understood farmer terms, it’s about cultivating relationships. Find the way to tell your story in a way that is comfortable, honest and open and you will engage customers loyal to you and your business.

Talk is NOT Cheap

This may sound like a complete reversal from the “free” advertising mentioned earlier but, in this case, it is referring to what happens after everyone finds you and then has the ability to share their experience and thoughts, not just with the neighbor over the fence, but with hundreds to thousands of people.  Today, more than ever, you must walk the talk and be accountable to your customers.  The minute what happened in your barn, in your office or at your auction sale hits the wires it becomes the measure of your business.  Believe it!  When bad news gets out there it’s going to be shared so quickly it will make your head spin and your bank balance shiver in fear.  In the past when bad news raised its ugly face, you had a certain amount of time to plan how to respond.  Today, if you wait to respond, it can be too late.  Responding in real time with real information will be more successful in transforming negative publicity into a building opportunity.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Is there a way to use social media so that you won`t have to suffer through scary mistakes?  No! Mistakes happen in any environment.  Equipment fails.  Hay weather upsets the routine.  Cows get sick. And that’s just one farm.  Ramp that up to real-time techie interaction on the web and you can’t expect perfection of yourself or anyone else.  Rather than worrying about making mistakes, you should be worried about not making them!  If you’re not experimenting with social media that means you’re missing out on a myriad of ways to win hearts, minds and wallets!



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




The fakebook – Our Secret is Exposed

For those who don’t understand social media, which tends to be the gray-haired generation, they like to say that Facebook is just a bunch of college kids spouting off about things that don’t apply to them.  Furthermore, many say that there is no need to get involved in social media because it’s not where the “buyers” are.  In actual fact, both statements could not be further from the truth.  The first thing breeders need to understand about Facebook and the other social media platforms is that they are simply stories.  Instead of breeders sharing stories in the milk house, or at ringside, they are happening online.  It’s that change of location that is the first hurdle.  Many are afraid of change.  It is easier to pan it and accuse Facebook of being a fake than it is to adjust to the change.

There`s an even bigger difference.  Instead of  it being a one on one chat in your barn with a few people discussing  who is the greatest show cow  of all time (Read more: The 8 Greatest North American Show Cows of All-Time and Who would you vote for as the greatest Holstein show cow of All-Time?) or the best type sire ever (Read more: Braedale Goldwyn: Is he the greatest type sire ever?  and Who would you vote for as the greatest type sire ever?)  now it is  happening online with thousands from around the world.  This allows all breeders to tell their story to thousands of people, cheaper, and easier than ever before.

It’s all about telling a Story

Before Facebook, to get your story out there you needed to be fortunate enough to get one of the major print publications to do an article about your farm.  Or you had to spend thousands in advertising to get your message out there.  With tools like Facebook breeders can tell their story at relatively no cost to thousands of potential customers.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Are there really thousands of dairy breeders online?”  The answer is “Yes.  Yes. Yes.”.  Despite the fact that some publications like to buy followers from nondairy markets in order to pad their numbers, there really are breeders who are having amazing conversations online.

Facebook competitor

Take for example the recent Breeder’s Choice Awards from the Bullvine (Read more: The Winners of the 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards are…).  In a one-week period we had over 3,000 Dairy Breeders cast more than 8,000 votes.  Now I know the next comment will be that those are a bunch of college kids.  Well actually our Facebook page reports that 50% are over the age of 25.  Moreover, 31.6% of our followers are male over the age of 25.  That’s 2897 followers that are male over the age of 25.  That’s more than most dairy publications readership, male or female, any age. So they are not only college kids.  In fact I have conversations with dairy breeders of all ages.  Breeders who you would never have thought would spend so much time online, are actually following the conversation.  In fact our Facebook page reaches over 125,000 people on a weekly basis.  That is more than the COMBINED total subscribership of the major dairy breeder print publications in the world!

The Bullvine likes demographics

Think about that for a minute. On Facebook you can reach more people at next to no cost, than you can reach offline even when you’re spending thousands of dollars.  Why is that?  Well it’s simple, Facebook is today’s most effective tool for finding entertainment and information.  How you ask?  It’s simple.  In your Facebook stream your friends comment, share and like photos, articles, videos or other types of content.  By doing so, people who have similar interests to you (your Facebook friends) are in effect narrowing down all the content that is out there in the world, to what you’re most likely to want to read or watch.

social proofFor us here at the Bullvine Facebook has been one of the greatest sources for finding new readers.  One of our current subscribers reads something on our website, finds it interesting enough to share it or make a comment about it on Facebook, and then their friends come to the Bullvine and read it as well.  That is why you find many of our articles having hundreds of shares on Facebook, instead of donuts like the other online publications.  We don’t only publish all the same boring new releases that every other publication puts out, but rather, on a daily basis, we are producing thought provoking original content.  Instead of just bragging that we get thousands of visitors to a website a day, we have the trackable social proof from Facebook that people are engaging in our community.  Moreover, it’s the reason many breeders, who don’t always agree with us, keep coming back to the Bullvine.  Think about it, over the past year, what articles, events or content has driven the most conversation?  You don’t need to be told where the conversation is at. As a dairy breeder you are part of the conversation and already know where it`s going on.

So how does this apply to the average breeder?

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.


A few things to remember.  Just like that first date with that hot dairy princess, it will go better if you don’t make it all about you.  On our Facebook page we make sure for every story we share of ours, we share someone else’s story.  That is one of the major reasons many breeders check out our feed on a daily basis.  We are sharing content that we find interesting as a dairy breeder and, as a result, other dairy breeders typically find it interesting as well.  That is also why almost 70% of the breeders who follow our page share, like or comment on the information and entertainment we are sharing on a weekly basis.  Now 70% sounds like a big number and it is. On a weekly basis that is over 6000 people engaging in the conversation, that is almost 3 times as many as any other publication.  The thing that these other publications don’t get is that instead of just sharing a pretty picture each day, we are sharing interesting articles from around the world.  We are asking questions.  We are joining the conversation.  That’s because we get it.  We are breeders first and love being part of the breeder community.  We are not trying to drive traffic to our website, so we can justify the high expense to advertise on our site.  We are joining in with and, often times, starting the conversation.


A great example of this is that recently we shared an advertisement from a sale manager for an upcoming sale.  We were impressed with their list of consignments, so we shared it with our readers.  That advertisement was seen by more people on our Facebook page, than in the major print publication that they had spent thousands of dollars on.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Now I know change can be hard.  And for those who have been successful through traditional methods, it can be even harder to adjust to these changes.  But the world has already changed. Either you adjust to live within or it will move on without you.  Facebook is not Fakebook.  It is real people, real stories and real connections.  If you don’t learn to leverage the power of it, the only thing that is going to be fake is the money in your wallet.



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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”.

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