Barta Livestock builds more than toys with scale-model livestock
June 22, 2018
Zach Barta, the son of a ranch hand growing up in the Nebraska Sandhills, has always dreamed of quality livestock and, like many ag kids growing up in the '90s, spent his youth playing with 1/64th Ertl Farm Country sets.
But as he grew older the lack of life-like poses bothered him and he started cutting the toys apart to remodel them, which eventually led to sculpting from scratch.
Barta has always been an artist, so drawing and sculpting life-like animals was a logical step. He became a ranch hand along the way, which gave him plenty of reference animals to work from. "I've always dreamed of owning some of the best stock available. I guess this is my way of doing that on a more manageable scale," Barta said.
Barta now lives in Utah, where his job in the oil field working a rotating schedule of a week on and a week off gives him the ability to pursue his passion of creating livestock models. Two years ago he branched out into digital design and sculpting. With the use of 3D printers he is able to replicate his designs with ease and make them available to the public. He has partnered with experienced designers from around the world to bring his animals to life. The designers are freelance and work by commission; they are all mostly more cartoon/fictional designers so it takes a lot of work to achieve the realistic replica that Barta prefers. Hundreds of emails, messages and photos are exchanged for each model. Once the animal is designed Barta takes it and works on fine details to achieve the realism he wants. He is hoping soon to have his own tablet so he can do all of his own designing, rather than working through others. The printing process has allowed him to mass-produce his designs and expand the sizes and varieties.
The three-dimensional printed animals are 1/64th of actual size but custom sizes are available. They are made of a poly resin that is fairly brittle which is needed to achieve the realistic characteristics of each animal, so currently these are more of collector or display items than toys.
"I can't settle for anything less than completely realistic, everything but the heartbeat." Barta said. "I put several hundred hours into each animal; my wife jokes that if I weren't such a perfectionist, it wouldn't take half as long or cost half as much. That's where me not settling for anything short of realistic comes in."
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The base price is about $10 per unpainted animal, which is mostly materials and handling. Barta offers many custom options, including painting and applying the customer's brand. He can make specific animals to match a photo as well. Most of his creations presently are sold to collectors. He is constantly working on new designs and plans to soon be offering both Quarter and Draft horse models. Barta hopes to one day offer all species of livestock and equipment to go along with them. He has many different breeds of cattle available including Angus, Hereford, Longhorn and Brahmas. He will paint them any way the buyer wishes or they can purchase unfinished models and paint them themselves. Though the standard size is 1/64 he also has made 1/87 for some collectors who wanted small animals for their model train displays. "I'll make any size that a person wants if they are willing to pay for it." Barta said.
Barta is fairly new to selling his models, by far his favorites are beef cattle and he has yet to really have any unique custom orders. Due to the newness of his business Zach has yet to have a full collection of his own. The most meaningful have been the animals he has given to some young collectors to get them started. The models were unfinished to help motivate the collectors to work on them and add character.
Barta has attended the National Farm Toy Show for the past two years in Dyersville, Iowa. Last year he was approached by some national toy manufacturers who are seeking to partner with Barta Livestock to use his designs to produce toy animals. Barta hopes that soon he will be able to offer a small line of durable animals that are something a kid can afford and will hold up to rough play. "I want to make the animals for those who will enjoy them the most," Barta said.
Building livestock for the next generation is his goal. Zach Barta and his wife Sally Jo have three children with another one on the way. They are all very supportive of the business and the kids enjoy helping him build and select new projects. He is always open to ideas and thoughts and welcomes messages about his designs.
Barta Livestock's animals are available from the web storefront at http://www.shapeways.com/shops/barta-livestock-1 or from him directly via his Facebook page, Barta Livestock @custom164livestock or by calling him at (435) 828-3269. If ordered unfinished the animals are shipped directly. Custom orders take a couple of months to fill. All the figures are produced in the United States and Barta is committed to maintaining that. ❖