Opinion: Why farming families dread bull photography day

Taking Stock: Why farming families dread bull sale photography day

DREADED DAY: When the sun sets on a day photographing sale bulls everyone is sick of it. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

DREADED DAY: When the sun sets on a day photographing sale bulls everyone is sick of it. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher


If you are a bush kid reading this you're probably still psychologically scarred.


It is the one day of the year every farming family across the country dreads.

Some might say it is worse than shovelling cow pads at the Royal.

It is more heated than the debate over who has to sit with the gear stick between their legs in the single cab ute.

And it is even worse than the fight to avoid the gate on the lick run.

It has the potential of putting serious stress on new marriages or simply sparking world war three between adult siblings.

Just the thought of the annual event can have the strongest of men quivering in their boots.

Welcome to bull photography day.

Your mission is to capture the young sire standing off set, head high, and long of length.

Sounds simple?

If you are a bush kid reading this you're probably still psychologically scarred from the experience.

The day always starts off so calmly.

Grandma is enlisted with babysitting duties and an army of enthusiastic family members have a skip in their step as they approach the yards.

But it doesn't matter how many times you do it, these photoshoots are far from a bonding session.

The photography skilled family member is complaining about their buckled knees, the boyfriend is questioning the decision to join the family and your father would have been happy with the photo 2000 frames earlier.

"Why couldn't we do it like last year," he says.

There are a few types of characters that arise during this annual tradition - the ear pricker, the perfectionist and the quiet achiever.

The ear pricker has one of the most important jobs. Enter my brother.

Getting the attention of a docile sale bull seems easy but three hours later it can turn into a full on strip show.

Ear pricker starts off with a fake bellow before proceeding to pistol and firework noises, then he starts climbing the hay rack and before you know he has his shirt off throwing it around his head like a lasso.

All this and the bull either still looks like a hibernating turtle or raised his head and took off at the outrageous sound effects.

Then there is the perfectionist - usually also my brother.

He comes with no photography knowledge nor has he ever taken a photo but this person is never wrong.

The sun could be fading, you may have taken six different options of your lead bull but Mr Perfectionist will still insist on "just one more".

You know there is no point even trying to take bull photos without his attendance because he'll only approve the images he helped set up.

Standing towards the back of the pack you'll find the quiet achiever. That's my dad.

He never really stands out and usually sits back watching the commotion unfold.

This man has bred plenty of cattle in his time and knows it's easier to let the bull do the talking.

He would much rather be unloading hay off of the truck but the quiet achiever plays an important role as the mediator to the guaranteed quarrels.

Before you know it is well past lunchtime, hunger is setting in and grandma has just been in touch calling for her own assistance with the young stock.

The mood has changed, the silence is deafening and you doubt you'll have anyone helping at the bull sale.

The camera handy daughter has threatened to retire from the job but not before firing up the computer and presenting the long-awaited gallery.

No one complains.

It doesn't take long before someone pipes up and says, "Make sure I never forget this experience".

But deep down you know everyone will be back at it again.

Because it's the one day of the year that could deliver you the biggest return come auction.


  • Be patient! Don't put a time limit on it and be prepared for a few hiccups along the way.
  • Give yourself space. Push animals along a fence line and keep an animal at either end so they walk out freely.
  • Stay calm. Stress rubs off on other people along with the animals.
  • Always have a good meal planned on the table afterwards. Everyone smiles at pumpkin scones and ham cheese sandwiches.

This opinion piece appeared in the Taking Stock column of The Land.


From the front page

Sponsored by