Blue Ribbon: Some cows come to The Fair to get their pictures taken

In the Dairy Cattle Building, you can see cows being milked, cows getting ready to comptete, and also cows getting their pictures taken--for more than a Fair souvenir (photojournalist Nick DeRocha)

As you walk through the State Fair Dairy Cattle Barn, you see hundreds of cows being groomed, or in the show ring. Some of them are also rimmed up, to have their pictures taken, and it's not just for a Fair souvenir.

Lea Jordan is a dairy cattle photographer. She grew up dairy, on a farm in Wisconsin, 'fell into' cow photography during a college internship, and now travels fair to fair. She'll be taking pictures through Friday in a corner of the Dairy Barn (stop by to watch, it's fascinating!) It is more than a one-person effort: her crew (up to six people) help pose the sometimes uncooperative animals: head has to be up, ears forward, every hair in place, the tail tuft brushed out and the tail hanging properly, and legs square. With pictures, unlike in the show ring, they can use props: one crew member has a full grain scoop, which he can shake to get the cow's attention, and also a cow stuffed toy on a cord to help her look in the right direction.

Cow pictures are an important part of the dairy business: they end up in national catalogs that become marketing tools, aimed at potential buyers or breeders, so a lot of money rides on the pictures that Lea takes!

Something else to look for, as you watch the dairy show: In addition to awarding ribbons to competitors, the judges do a commentary at the end of each class, explaining why the top cows were picked. The BIG compliment: "she's very dairy."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off