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Montana Moovie Star

Montana rancher Whitney Klasna may not exactly be famous, but her cows are. A video she shot while doing chores in January 2016 has been seen hundreds of millions of times. Shortly after posting her “Crossfit Cow” to social media, the clip of a cow playfully rolling a 1,100 pound straw bale around the snow-covered pasture
went viral.

“I started getting emails and messages and even calls on my home phone from these viral media clearinghouse companies,” Klasna recalls. “They have people who scour social media channels looking for this viral media content.”

Klasna’s video was just what they were looking for.

“They purchase licensing rights to these videos and other content on the internet,” Klasna continues. “Then they shop out this content to companies whether it be The Ellen DeGeneres Show or America’s Funniest Home Videos, or even news channels and commercial producers. Websites and businesses are looking for content to post on their Facebook to draw traffic to their page.”

Klasna sold the rights to the company, but she still maintains ownership of the video. She was paid in advance and continues to receive a portion of sales each time the licensing rights are sold. The few minutes Klasna took to shoot and post the cow video more than three years ago is still paying dividends today.

“It’s great. I just got paid on Monday for videos. It’s kind of a residual income that comes from these viral videos,” says Klasna. “It’s crazy that I’m getting paid for a video I made of my cow.”

Since the debut of her crossfit cow, Klasna has sold the rights to three additional videos.

It’s not just the money that motivates Klasna to create videos of her life on the ranch. Posting about her cows and corgis is a fun way to connect with her friends and family who live elsewhere. Her funny or interesting clips are also a great way to start conversation. “For people I met on the metro in D.C. or on a plane who are now following me on Facebook or Instagram, they might not otherwise know about these things. We’ve got a great story to tell,” Klasna says. 

“I just try to find ways to connect. People love to follow and see these beautiful scenes of cows and open space. I think it’s going to be more prevalent that you’re going to see more cow videos going viral. I hope that people have wonderful experiences when they view my videos, even if they don’t love cows as much as I do,” Klasna laughs.

She and her husband, Dylan, raise cattle and grow crops with her in-laws, Tim and Kim, and are the fourth generation on the ranch near Lambert. When she has the chance, Klasna weaves information about the ways her family responsibly produces beef and grains in such a drought-prone area into her posts.

Prepare to go Viral

Going viral can be a scary thing, and it can happen when you least expect it. It is important to think about what someone unfamiliar with farming or ranching sees when looking at your content before you post. If you’re showing a process or practice that could be misunderstood as harmful, be sure to add clarification and context if you do decide to publish.

If something you post starts taking off, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, Klasna adds.

“These viral companies, there are definitely good ones and not-so-good ones. Do your homework when you’re contacted by these companies if you have viral content,” Klasna explains. “People are more than welcome to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help them.”

Audra Mulkern with the Female Farmer Project helped Klasna understand the legal language of the contracts she was offered, Klasna says. It was important to her that the videos would not be able to be used by animal rights groups and others seeking to harm agriculture. 

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