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A crystal clear focus on the cattle industry

Katie Colyer, shown here, travels the country with cattle auction sale support and her photography/videography business.

By Sarah Skaar

For Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

BOISE — Fifteen years ago, Idaho agri-businesswoman Katie Colyer merged her interests in cattle and photography into a career that takes her to 80 to 90 cattle sales and ranches per year.

She’s been on the sale podium or behind the scenes at most of the premier cattle events across the country, and many in Eastern Idaho.

Based in Boise, she provides internet and live-video streaming auction sale support for a major international company, and she meets the demand for professional photography and videography with her own business, Crystal Clear Creations.

“I really enjoy seeing different ranch operations and visiting new places,” Colyer says. “It’s always interesting.”

In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, cattle sellers and buyers rely on professional service providers to help them with promotions and customer access points.

It’s a natural fit for Colyer, who grew up on her family’s registered Hereford and Angus ranch near Bruneau and showed championship cattle at the national level.

She was an officer and intern in national breed associations before attending the University of Idaho and Kansas State University, then spent eight years with the Idaho Cattle Association.

She joined LiveAuction.TV in 2007, broadcasting production sales over the internet for the division of Superior Livestock Auctions.

Her schedule can be grueling. Colyer spends long days away from home, fluctuating with the time of year and contracts.

In late spring, she’s often in the southeast, including Alabama and Georgia, then to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Illinois for fall female sales, followed by weeks at major winter stock show events and bull sales in the spring.

She takes care of a monthly embryo sale, and several on-line semen and select female sales. She keeps two bags packed and ready all the time — one with her auction broadcast equipment, and another containing her photo/video cameras and gear.

Add a laptop computer and a plane ticket or tank of gas and she’s away again.

Working live and video auctions involves setting up each lot in the computer system with animal name, pedigree, pictures, and clips. She live-streams the sale in real time and takes bids and communicates with bidders and the auctioneer.

Colyer works some cattle sales that are entirely virtual — no live cattle at all.

She explains, “Most are live sales but some of these consignment sales lack the manpower or facilities to bring cattle into a ring. Or they draw from such a huge area it’s not practical. They are entirely internet. Some sellers and some buyers like it, some don’t, but everyone has had to adjust, especially in 2020.”

She also produces marketing material for print and digital platforms with her photo and video business.

“Most of my photography and videography is for production or consignment sales, or for breeders who need pictures for a catalog or clips for their website,” she says.

Colyer has worked with many sales, committees and ranchers for a decade or more. She understands their program and knows their staff, cattle and facilities.

“The goal is to give the buyer an honest idea of the animal, and to accurately represent the seller’s product,” she says, drawing on her personal experience with cattle evaluation and selection. “If it’s show cattle, they’ve had a crew there clipping and getting them ready. But usually it’s one individual at a time to video, through the corral. We need a good background that’s not distracting and corrals or pens where buyers will be able to see the animal move. Usually the ranch has everything set up, but sometimes they’ve never done it before and I have to help them.”

She’s developed a system for keeping track of the thousands of head of cattle she shoots every year, and for keeping the process moving efficiently at a ranch location.

It takes extra time, but she usually videos and photographs both sides of Herefords and breeds with distinct coloration so buyers can see markings.

Back at the motel or her home office, she downloads raw data to her computer and spends hours selecting the best shots and editing video to about 45 seconds to one minute for each animal.

Most of Colyer’s work has been with Hereford, Angus, Red Angus, Charlois and other beef breeds, but she’s also shot and worked sales of dairy cattle, horses and club calves.

She’s taken photos at the Eastern Idaho State Fair and Western Idaho State Fair market animal sales, and at the industry’s top breed consignment events.

“In 2020, I picked up some new sales and did some county fair sales on the internet because live events were canceled,” Colyer says. “I really enjoy helping people market their cattle. It’s challenging and I get to work in the cattle industry. It’s a good fit for me.”