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Iowa's fluffy cows go viral on social media

Iowa's fluffy cows go viral on social media
I like to check in on Twitter throughout the day to keep up on the latest news. Earlier this week, I kept noticing tweets about “Fluffy Cows,” using the hashtag #fluffycows. Attached to the tweets were photos of cattle with their hair fluffed up so they looked like big, huggable Teddy Bears.

It turns out, the fluffy cows went “viral” on social media. People all over the world were tweeting about how the fluffy cows were the cutest thing on the Internet since, well, fluffy cats.

After a little online sleuthing, I traced the fluffy cows back to Iowa. Lautner Farms based in Adel is home to the original fluffy cow that started the social media sensation. Owner Phil Lautner specializes in genetics for club calves, which 4-H kids raise to show at their county fairs.

I wanted to learn more about how the “fluffy cows” got their start. So I called up Lautner Farms, and they forwarded me to their advertising specialist, Stephanie Steck.

Steck said the “fluffy cows” trend wasn’t a pre-planned social media campaign. Actually, it caught everyone at Lautner Farms by surprise.

The original “fluffy cow” photo was of a cross-bred bull named “Texas Tornado” taken at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. “Those pictures of him were taken this winter, when it’s the coldest time of the year, so he was really hairy,” Steck said.

Lautner Farms recently launched a new website. Someone discovered the “fluffy cow” photo on the website and posted it on Reddit, a social media hub for popular news, photos and videos. Soon, the hashtag #fluffycows became a trending topic on Twitter.

Yet the name “fluffy cows” didn’t come from Lautner Farms. In fact, the animal in the photo is a bull. Farmers know that bulls are males, and cows are females.

“I think we would be a little bit more responsible if we were going to name it,” Steck said. “But for those who don’t know, it’s a good entryway into real conversation about show cattle and beef production in general. We are hoping to embrace that part of it.”

So why are the “cows” fluffy? Lautner Farms does a great job of explaining in a statement to answer the many media calls:

“Behind the now famous #fluffycow phenomenon is families who work together year-round to make these steer and heifer projects look their best for the chance to walk through the show ring.

“This requires the youth showman to wash, comb and blow dry their animals’ hair daily – sometimes twice a day. Before the show, these animals are treated to a day at the ‘salon,’ where they use hair sprays, oils and clippers to cut, style and fluff up the hair. This is all in an effort to earn the attention of a judge, who evaluates the animals – not just for presentation of hair, but for other merits like carcass quality (for market animals) or breeding traits (for heifers and bulls).”

Steck said Lautner Farms is using the “fluffy cows” trend to start a conversation with consumers about modern-day cattle farming and how cattle provide so much for our lifestyles, from beef steaks and steaks to beef byproducts like insulin for diabetics.

To follow the latest fluffy cow photos and news from Lautner Farms, visit www.twitter.com/@fluffycowzz.

Written by Teresa Bjork, senior features writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.