Aug. 21 2013 07:00 AM

Picture-day planning starts far in advance.

The Hoard's Dairyman Farm typically pictures cows at the farm once each year for promotion, marketing and advertising purposes. This generally occurs in summer or fall. This year, a beautiful summer day was the backdrop for 10 cows.

But, before picturing can start, there was a lot of work that went into planning the day's events. The first item the farm team needed to decide on was which cows would be pictured – those for A.I. companies and for the farm itself. Hoard's Dairyman Farm uses many young sires and they are frequently photographed as progeny-test daughters to be used by A.I. companies in their marketing projects.

Cows that are photographed by Hoard's Dairyman Farm generally have at least one female offspring in the herd. Their stage of lactation is a high consideration when finalizing which cows will be captured on film (well, digital now). Those that looked great in spring may not resemble her earlier appearance in fall, and photographing her now might not give you the desired image you hoped for.

Once the final list is determined, the cows need to be trained to become accustomed to a halter. The only Hoard's Dairyman Guernseys that are comfortable with a halter are those that were exhibited by local youth at the county fair as calves. So this summer, the farm intern worked diligently with the cows. Cows need to respect the halter so that she looks her best with her head held high, not fighting the leadsman when she is being pictured.

In the days just prior to photo day, the cows were clipped. On picture day, the 10 cows were washed at 5 a.m. and then kept in a separate pen and fed until the photographer arrived. Then individually each cow was brushed, tail fluffed and sprayed for flies. While the crew led them to the freshly-mowed lawn where the photos were to be taken, one member stayed with the remaining cows to see that they were clean and to prepare the next one. The cows travel several hundred yards from the freestall barn to the picture location, so they need to be well-behaved. You do not want her to run away and get covered with dust. And keep in mind, she had an udder full of milk, so she does not need to be trotting around the farm.

Picturing one cow at the farm, let alone 10 cows, requires a lot of extra hands – individuals to reposition feet and legs, hold the tail and make noise for the shot. A Jersey calf served as an attention-getter, so the subject was alert for the picture. Most times, it is better to have extra hands rather than be a few short. Once the picture was taken, the cow was returned to the barn, where she was then promptly milked and returned to her normal pen. The cow's identity was then given to the photographer so there is documentation for each photo. The next cow was then already on the way to the blocks.

Ten cows were photographed on July 25 by Kathy DeBruin of Agri-Graphics. You can view the results of the day at Watch for them in A.I. company promotions and farm advertisements.
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The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.