In 2020, more so than other years, social media platforms were inundated with pictures and videos of livestock being offered for sale.

This was no surprise, given that most spring sales were totally online and many had no other alternative to advertise stock.

When used properly, these social media platforms can be a serious tool to market your animals. While sales may have been the norm for many breeders selling stock, now, by using private sites or Facebook and Instagram, you can automatically increase the audience you are selling to. Your stock could be seen by huge numbers of people from all parts of the world.

Why limit potential customers to your local area, or even Ireland? We have some of the best genetics in the world and in recent years, many breeders are securing overseas markets for their stock due to good online marketing. The key to unlocking these markets is proper photography and videography. While it’s impossible to compete with the professionals, sometimes this isn’t always feasible for every animal you want to sell, depending on their value.

However, the most important thing to remember is that a picture tells a thousand words. This is also the case for a bad picture. A bad picture can do you more harm than good, so be careful about what you share. Be sure to upload images of stock that show them to their best possible advantage, similar to when at a show.

Cattle are clipped and groomed for the show ring to attract potential buyers and to show the animal in its best possible light. The same should be done for online promotion. Where possible, clip the animal and prepare them as if you were going to the show ring. If the animal is halter-trained, it might be easier to take a standing picture rather than a free shot. This will allow you to move the legs into the desired position.

Below, I’ve set out a few points to note when photographing and videoing stock to get the best possible picture:

  • Be sure the sun is on your back. If you are facing the sun with the camera, then the animal will appear very dark and you will lose all focus.
  • Look for an appealing background, but not one that will take the focus from the animal. Place the animal out from the background, more central in the field, to make the animal stand out more.
  • Try to photograph an animal on level ground or slightly rising. Taking a picture of an animal facing down a hill doesn’t show them to their best advantage (again, similar to a show ring).
  • Take the picture from low down. This will automatically make the animal look bigger and more impressive.
  • Be sure when taking the picture that you can see all four legs of the animal. Taking a picture from side on, thus showing it on two legs, looks bad – with four legs, it makes the animal stand out from the picture and look more three dimensional. You want the animal looking square on the back to add width.
  • The head of the animal should be up and facing out. Try to arrange it so that you can see both ears and they are pointing forward. You may need someone to make noise in front of the animal to get the ears cocked.
  • Aim for the animal to take up three-quarters of the picture. You don’t want them taking up the whole frame, nor do you want it to look too small.
  • All the points are the exact same for photographing animals that aren’t on the halter.

  • When videoing, the points are the same with regard to positioning. Eg sun on your back etc.
  • Try to move the camera as little as possible. Let the animal do the moving. A small move in the camera when videoing can be very noticeable after.
  • Most new phones now come with a very basic video editing app pre-installed, for example iMovie on iPhones. These can be used to add text, zoom in, shorten clips, join clips and add music.
  • You don’t want your clips too long, as people won’t spend all day watching them. Keep it short and sweet!
  • Patience is the name of the game. Don’t be in a rush. If you have brought the animal in to be clipped and groomed, instinctively the first thing it will want to do when it sees grass is eat. Give the animal time.
  • Remember, practice makes perfect, so the more time you spend at it, the better you’ll get. Look at professional pictures and videos and see how they have the animals looking and try to replicate it.
  • What next?

    The cheapest and most effective way to showcase your animal is on a social media platform like Facebook. It may, however, take time to build up a following. If you set your profile up as a friend page, then only your friends are viewing what you’ve shared. What many herds and flocks have done is set up ‘like’ pages – this way, there is no limit to who can view your content. But again, it takes time to build a following. What has become the norm for increasing the number of people who view your content is to share your posts in Facebook groups that are relevant to your content. If doing this, be sure to share your post from your own page rather than writing a separate post. This will drive onlookers back on to your page.

    It’s also worth tagging other like pages relevant to the post. For example, tagging the AI company that sired the animal standing will benefit both parties. Remember, the frequency and quality of the content you share leads to more likes and shares, which increases the overall number of views.

    Most of these sites also offer targeted marketing campaigns, where you can pay per view or reaction, which can be beneficial when initially launching a ‘like’ page.

    The other option is creating a website for your herd or flock. This generally requires a professional site maker to help you stand out from the crowd and generally works best alongside a strong social media strategy.

    With 2021 likely to have a slow start for bull sales, now is the time to look into getting set up online. While a picture or video will never compete with seeing an animal in the flesh, it may still be the thing that gets potential customers to your yard to see your cattle.

    Key point

    No content is better than bad content. People will remember a bad picture or video a lot longer then they’ll remember a good one!

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