When photos of Matt Lautner’s prize show bull Texas Tornado appeared on a popular online forum Reddit, he had no idea it would create an Internet sensation. Nor did he have any indication an opportunity to open a window to the beef industry was coming his way.
Then someone commented on the “fluffy cows” — a term coined online — and the cyber world had a new mascot.
ABC News, the Associated Press, the Today show and CNN all took note and ran stories on the phenomenon. Texas Tornado went viral. A Facebook page, Fluffy Cows R Us, created by Lautner, compiled 37,000 “likes” in just weeks.
And Lautner seized the opportunity. “Now that we’ve got their attention, I think it’s a great opportunity to teach them about our industry,” says Lautner, who breeds show cattle near Adel, Iowa. “Every year, millions of Americans walk through the cattle barns at fairs and expos, and now, more than ever, I think they are going to stop and really take a look at the fluffy cows in the aisles. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about not just fluffy show cattle, but also beef and beef by-products.”
Lautner is by nature and by trade a cattle breeder and promoter. Lautner genetics are a common sight in show rings across the country, frequently winning top honors. And Lautner makes expert use of today’s communication tools to highlight their success. With sites like Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and a daily blog on his own website at his disposal, he utilizes digital communication to its full potential. “Promotion is key, in my business and the beef business in general.”
Lautner has been around beef since he was a kid. His dad started raising show cattle in the 1970s, and Matt started Matt Lautner Cattle in 2006. Three sales each year feature offspring from his 60 bulls, and he puts an emphasis on 4-H and FFA calves, selling around 75 per year. Last year Matt Lautner Cattle sold semen in 44 states.
Terri Queck-MatzieMatt Lautner seized the opportunity to make Fluffy Cows work for personal good as well as giving consumers an education by promoting a benefit auction at the height of the phenomenon’s popularity. Fluffy Cows jumped on board to support young Drew Shryock’s fight with cancer and Cowboy Up for a CURE. This Meat Cuts drawing by Hayes Martens (pictured) sold to a group of 56 donors for $14,000 and has been donated to the National Western Livestock Show in Denver. Lautner also uses the graphic to demonstrate the practical end of beef production.