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Dairymen use creative social media to give cows a voice

PD Staff Ariel Waldeck Published on 01 September 2011
Attention Please Twitter

What if the next Twitter star was not a person, but a bovine? Dairyman Chris Vandenberg and his tweeting bovines believe it’s completely possible.

Vandenberg of Brant in Ontario, Canada, has taken a more automated Twitter approach to provide a voice for his cows.



He allowed members of the Critical Media Lab at the University of Waterloo to use his farm to launch Teat Tweet.

“It is all automatic,” Vandenberg says. “I don’t have to do anything.”

The software works in tandem with Vandenberg’s two robotic milkers. No additional hardware had to be installed to set up the Twitter system.

The software uses data collected from the cow’s ID tag, which is read each time the cow enters the milking robot, to auto-complete data fields in pre-set Tweets.

The program tweets how much a cow milked, how much grain she ate or how long it took her to milk out.


Vandenberg told the people from the University of Waterloo that he would be glad to help them with their project, on one condition.

“As long as it does not interfere with my day-to-day operations and the computer system that I have set up, it is completely fine with me,” Vandenberg explains.

Vandenberg was asked to select 12 of his 70 cows for the project. He tried to split the cows up evenly throughout their lactations from pre-calving through dry-off.

The 12 cows that Vandenberg chose were also some of his favourites. Not all of Vandenberg’s pre-set tweets require a specific data number to be tweeted; some of them are just witty.

One of Vandenberg’s tweeting cows with a handle of @AttnPlease has tweeted her share of witty tweets.

@AttnPlease: “Tricked that robot again. It let me in, but I’m not putting out.”


Attention Please (@AttnPlease) is one of two of Vandenberg’s cows who have made their imprint on Twitter.

Attention Please is Vandenberg’s most talkative cow with more than 5,200 tweets. More than 500 followers follow another cow, @ContrastAmanda. In the beginning Vandenberg had his doubts about talking cows on Twitter.

“I didn’t think it would be very popular, but some people really enjoy it,” Vandenberg says. “There may be more of a future for something like this.

Getting more people interested may take it to the next level. Before you know it, the farmer may be on there too, tweeting what he is doing all day.”

Dairyman Ryan Bright works with his dad and uncle, Douglas and Edward Bright, on a 100-cow dairy in Philadelphia, Tennessee.

Bright created a witty blog in November 2010 called The Udder Side, where he writes about fictitious undercover adventures of his herd from a cow’s perspective.

“I thought I could do something a little off-centered and be more creative than just, ‘Here’s what I did today on the farm,’” Bright says.

“That made it more fun for me to write about and still try to get information to non-agricultural people. They can find something good about the farm and find something to laugh about as well.”

Bright brings humor into many of his blog posts by narrating first-person experiences of his undercover bovines, which belong to the fictitious investigative agency he calls the Cow Alliance Legion Federation or C.A.L.F. for short. This secret group of bovines wander around the dairy on special missions to solve mysteries.

For example, on one mission Bright’s cows seek to identify what was making atypical noises in the dairy’s hayloft. A feline was found to be the culprit, but Bright’s cows wonder if the cat can be trusted.

Acting as a voice for one of his cow characters, Bright wrote about the cow’s struggle to learn what language to use to interrogate the cat.

“The first thing to overcome would be the language barrier, and I discovered one thing very quickly. If you call the Rosetta Stone people and ask for ‘French’ or ‘Russian,’ they take your money and send you the product.

"However, if you ask for ‘feline,’ all you get is silence. So, I checked the spy manual I keep in a fake block of straw in my stall. It turns out that cats speak the common animal dialect. Who knew?”

Soon after launching the blog and promoting it on Twitter, Bright realized that he could not talk about everything that he wanted to from a cow’s perspective.

In December 2010, Bright created another blog, Silo Skies, to broadcast more on his opinions about dairy and agriculture issues.

“I am just trying to make something good about dairy out there,” Bright explains. “When someone Googles ‘dairy,’ maybe this will be one of the hits they will find, so when they read something it will be positive, as opposed to something negative about our industry.”

Vandenberg thinks in the future farmers will be blogging and tweeting about what they have done throughout the day on the farm.

Bright has already brought the future to the present by educating consumers about what life is like on a dairy farm from the farmer’s perspective.  PD

Attention Please is Vandenberg’s most talkative cow with more than 5,200 tweets.