Cattle artist Carol Herden at Dairy Expo next week

2012-09-27T11:00:00Z Cattle artist Carol Herden at Dairy Expo next weekBy Jane Fyksen, Crops Editor Agri-View
September 27, 2012 11:00 am  • 

Wishing for a special remembrance of your all-time favorite cow? Starting to think about Christmas and what to get your spouse something really special this year? Then you’ll definitely want to visit Carol’s Original WorkS (COWS) at World Dairy Expo, Oct. 2-6 in Madison.

With artistic liberty, owner and resident artist Carol Herden capitalizes the “S” in “WorkS.” It’s quite fitting actually, because she’s been hard at work, professionally sculpting 23 years. All pieces are individually hand-cast and painted from her original clay sculptures, so that every one is unique. Carol strives for realism in her sculptures of cattle – dairy and beef, as well as sheep, swine, horses and any number of other livestock species. Precise attention to detail sets her work apart.

Specializing in livestock art, she says she’s the largest producer of cattle figurines, sculpture, other types of art and awards in the U.S. From trophies to bronze statues, jewelry to paintings, cutting boards to cold-cast porcelain sculptures, her website ( is jam-packed with a breath-taking array of breeds.

Carol says she’s after accuracy in specie and breed conformation. She’s produced nine sculptures for Breyer (of model-horse fame). Other customers include NASCO and various livestock organizations. She’s done “ideal models for breed promotion” for multiple dairy breeds, working each time with a committee of influential people in that given breed – be it dairy or a meat-animal. (Sculptures of the six major dairy breeds are on her website.)

“I don’t just whip out a sculpture and call it generic,” Carol stresses of not wanting to inadvertently sculpt a flaw that “a breeder doesn’t want to see.” Instead, she gets a group of breeders involved, and seeks outside approval from the breed before debuting a new sculpture of a particular breed.

Carol, who used to live in Iowa, credits Jersey producer Gary Wolter of Sibley, Iowa, for allowing her to photograph, pet and handle his Jerseys so she could initially educate herself about dairy cattle conformation/anatomy. Since then, Carol has sculpted and/or painted many, many dairy cows. She’s even turned out a “third-size” Jersey that has a tray on her back and wheels under her and that serves cheese to folks visiting a B&B out in Virginia. (As readers hopefully have gleaned, Carol is willing – and able – to create just about anything as it relates to dairy cattle and other livestock.)

She’s also very happy to paint livestock portraits or capture that one outstanding cow in cold-cast porcelain from photos the customer might supply.

As noted, Carol will be exhibiting and selling her work at Dairy Expo next week. COWS will be kitty corner to the Purple Cow souvenir area in the main hallway of the Exhibition Hall. She invites dairy enthusiasts to stop by for a chat. Raised on a ranch in Bridger, Mont., Carol confides one of the things she enjoys most about what she does is meeting people in agriculture.

Carol’s folks had a beef cow/calf operation, feedlot and do commercial livestock hauling. Carol’s brother and his sons have taken over the home operation, which has shifted more into grain, though beef cattle are still in the picture, too. “I tell everybody I was born in a barn,” says this accomplished artist. “I loved my animals. I loved my cows.” Evidently it’s in her blood, as her great-grandmother’s 80-year lineage of Polled Herefords is still producing quality calves today.

Carol and her husband now live in Amboy, Minn., about 20 miles south of Mankato in Blue Earth County in the southcentral part of the state. Her husband manages a fertilizer terminal, and does woodworking for COWS. Carol has a couple horses, but admits the beef they had raised is currently in the freezer.

In addition to World Dairy Expo, Carol exhibits at World Pork Expo in Iowa, and other major livestock venues. The number of livestock shows she can be at, however, is limited, essentially because she is “research and development, creation and production” in her company. She hopes to shortly open a store in Amboy to sell her artwork, too.

Carol says cold-cast porcelain is “not plastic like a toy” but “not a fired glass” either. However, the figures are durable, have nice weight to them, and accept a nice finish. The artist confesses that when she’s hand-casting, “the ears” are the most vulnerable. The most challenging, however, involves custom-work and reconciling between “what the customer has in mind” and “what me, as the artist, has in my mind.” She has to be a good listener. Often, the producer wanting a sculpture of a particular cow is “very emotional” about the animal. Carol takes her responsibility very seriously “to capture the memory of that cow.”

“On occasion,” Carol also sculpts people. The most unique project she’s done is a portrait sculpture for a headstone of a gentleman who passed away before his wife delivered their twins. Carol sculpted the deceased father tenderly holding the twin babies he never got to meet in this life.

This accomplished artist also works one-on-one with producers to create laser-engraved customized gifts, featuring a farm or herd – from desk lamp to mantel clock, dresser caddy to photo frames. Readers can see all she does on her website, or contact her at or 507-380-1330. Better yet, make a point to stop by her booth during World Dairy Expo next week.

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