Check The Fine Print When Buying Breeding Stock


I had originally intended to write this column for the August issue, but since there are a number of breeders holding production sales this month, I decided to write it a few months earlier. Since entering the goat business I have taken issue with many aspects of the industry, and for the most part I have been able to avoid the parts I dislike the most by concentrating on commercial seedstock instead of show goats. Unfortunately, I am currently having a problem with one of the big name breeders over an issue that I have long disagreed with.

To put it succinctly, the Breeder's Guarantee that is offered by many of these breeders isn't worth the paper its printed on. Following is the text of a typical Breeder's Guarantee:

Breeder's Guarantee For Bucks: Should any buck (7) months of age or over, fail to prove a breeder after being used on does known to be breeders, the matter shall be reported in writing to the Seller within three (3) months following the date of purchase. The Seller will then have the right and privilege of 90 days to prove the buck a breeder. The Seller is not responsible for damage caused by foreign bodies after the animal has been sold or for sickness not apparent at sale time. There is no guarantee that semen collected from the buck will freeze.

Breeder's Guarantee For Does: Does are guaranteed to be breeders. In the event a female is claimed to be a non-breeder, after having been bred regularly to a buck known to be a breeder and after having been treated by a licensed veterinarian, the matter shall be reported in writing to the Seller within five (5) months following the date of purchase. The Seller will then have the right and privilege of six (6) additional months to prove the doe a breeder and may use any registered buck of the breed available to him to do so. Any female returned will be at the purchaser's risk. No guarantee is given that a pregnant female will deliver live kids or that she will carry kids full term, or the kids carried will not be mummified. The Seller is not responsible for damage caused by foreign bodies after the animal has been sold or for sickness not apparent at sale time.

Breeder's Guarantee Settlement: Transportation charges on animals returned to the Seller are the responsibility of the Buyer. No incidental expenses such as feed, care, AI signing fees, interest, veterinary charges, etc. will be charges by either party when making settlement. If the Seller is successful in proving the animal in question to be a breeder, said animal will be reclaimed by the Buyer at his/her expense. Should the Seller fail to prove the animal a breeder, then the Buyer is guaranteed a satisfactory replacement, F.O.B. Ranch or location of origin or a refund of the actual purchase price paid F.O.B. selling point. In no event shall the Seller be responsible for more than the purchase price. Should a dispute arise over the quality of a replacement, there will be a cash settlement.

Exception of Breeder's Guarantee: In cases where the animal is subject to any hormone or surgical reproduction techniques after the sale, this guarantee is VOID.

Rights and Obligations: The above terms of the sale shall constitute a contract between the Buyer and the Seller and be equally binding to both. Resale of animals following purchase in the sale shall constitute a separate transaction and the rights and obligations of the two parties connected thereto are not covered by the terms and conditions of this sale.

You will normally find this guarantee somewhere in the breeder's sale catalog, and if you casually read it you might not realize the problems with it until it is too late.

The primary problem with the guarantee is the short time periods allowed to make a claim. This will be especially problematic if you are purchasing animals at an April production sale. I don't think it is much of a stretch to say that most of the animals purchased this month will not be used for breeding purposes until after the guarantee periods expire. If you don't intend to breed the animal until this fall, you are in essence purchasing an animal with no guarantee.

Even if you intend to breed the animal immediately, there are still problems with the time periods to make your claim. For instance, how many buyers will know that a buck has failed to breed their does within 3 months? In most of the southern part of the US the daytime temperatures from April through November are high enough to cause most bucks to wait until after dark to engage in breeding activity. If the producer doesn't see breeding activity he is going to assume all the does are bred, and the buck is fertile. The average goat purchaser is not going to suspect that their new purchase has failed to breed until at least 4 months after breeding when the does fail to start bagging up, and some may not notice until after 5-6 months when the does fail to kid.

By that time if the buyer hasn't notified the seller, the buyer is out of luck. This is a stupid policy, and not just because it is unfair to the buyer. It is great for sellers who really don't want to guarantee their animals, but is also very bad for sellers who offer genuine guarantees on their animals. It seems like everytime I sell a buck I get a call a few weeks later complaining that the buck isn't working. I then have to explain to the buyer that most bucks work at night during the warmer months, and that they should call me in 6 months if they don't get any kids out of him. Thus far nobody has called back 6 months later looking for a replacement buck, but because so many people have been burned by breeders offering false guarantees I have to spend my time reassuring my clients that I will replace their buck if he really doesn't produce kids, and they don't need to tell me about it until then.

I also have clients that refuse to purchase anything but immature kids, because they have been burned so many times by breeders selling mature bucks and/or does that were infertile. Of course, the breeders then refused to replace the animals or refund the buyer's money because the guarantee period ended a few weeks before. I can't use the kind of language appropriate to describe breeders who engage in behavior like this in a family publication, but suffice it to say that I think they should be strung up by their sex organs and used as a piņata.

You will also notice that bucks are only guaranteed if they are 7 months or older. Hope you aren't buying 3 month old or younger bucks. By the time they turn 7 months old your 3 month guarantee will have expired. Although, the guarantee doesn't specify an age limit for does, the reality is that many does are not big enough to breed until they are 7 months old or older, and many breeders prefer to wait until the does are yearlings before breeding them. Depending on your practice, most of the younger does being sold at production sales may not be covered by a guarantee by the time you are ready to breed them.

I also find it interesting that the breeder only gives the buyer 5 months to determine whether a doe is a breeder or not, but expects the luxury of 6 months to prove the doe a breeder in the event of a return.

The only other major problem that I see with this type of guarantee is the lack of specificity as to ownership of any offspring produced should the animal be returned to the breeder and be proven to be a breeder.

Unfortunately, there are also unscrupulous buyers who will buy an animal, use it for a breeding season, then attempt to return or exchange it so they can get a new bloodline; making it necessary that the breeder be given the opportunity to see for himself that the animal is a nonbreeder. It is also understandable that the breeder won't replace an animal that was damaged or became sick after the buyer purchased it.

However, given those protections it is difficult to conceive of a legitimate reason why any breeder needs to limit the time during which the buyer may make a claim. Either the animal is a breeder or it isn't, and it really shouldn't matter if the buyer tells you 2 months later or 2 years later. It is actually detrimental to the buyer to wait, because if the animal dies in the meantime the buyer will have nothing to return.

In my case, I have tried to use a buck I purchased in November 2000 during 2 different breeding seasons. The first time I used him was immediately after purchasing him, but at the time most of my does were already bred, and I just used him for cleanup duty. He failed to breed any of the does, but I didn't think much of it since they had been missed by at least one of my other bucks by that time.

It is important to note that I purchased this animal private treaty, not through the breeder's production sale, so there was no formal written breeder's guarantee with all of the limitations described above made part of the transaction. Just a discussion that the buck would be guaranteed to be a breeder, and that I didn't really have a use for him until the next fall which would have made a 3 month guarantee no guarantee at all.

The next fall I used him again, this time on 10 of my best and most productive does. After 2 months it was apparent that many, if not all, of the does were still unbred. After both of these instances I notified the breeder that there appeared to be a problem with the buck, but I wanted to wait and see to be sure. When kidding season arrived and none of the does that had been exposed to this buck produced kids I contacted the breeder and requested a replacement. His response was that I should chalk it up to tough luck because he wasn't going to replace an animal this long after the sale.

I later discovered that this same buck had been used previously by another operation, and the buck had failed to breed any of those does either. A fact the breeder conveniently forgot to mention when I purchased the buck.

When my vet examined the animal he found that all of the buck's semen were dead.

This buck was the #2 buck at the Angelo State University performance test in 1999, and I purchased him from one of the most widely known breeders in the boer goat business for what I consider to be a premium price. A breeder from whom I have purchased 22 other bucks over the years, and the thanks I receive for my past business is to be sold an infertile animal.

Before you spend a large sum of money on an animal to improve your herd, I recommend that you study the guarantee offered by the breeder. If it is full of limitations and loopholes, you would be wise to find another source for new genetics that will stand behind the animals they are selling and be honest about whether they are guaranteeing the animal or not. If the guarantee is full of weasel words and clauses, its probably because the breeder offering it is a weasel. There are plenty of honest breeders out there offering quality stock that will guarantee their animals, or at least be straight with you if they aren't going to guarantee them, so there is no need to do business with the people who will not.

For the record I will replace any of the animals that I have raised that later prove to be non-breeders. I, however, do not guarantee the commercial does that I purchase for resale. In fact, I will tell you up front that a certain percentage of the commercial does will fail to produce kids in any year. That is normal in a commercial operation, and not necessarily an indication that the does are infertile. At any rate, because commercial does are so inexpensive to purchase in the first place, it would normally cost more to return the animal and ship a replacement than the doe's purchase price, so it is not practical to guarantee them. The important thing is that the guarantee be clear. In my case, high dollar registered fullblood and purebreds that I have raised are guaranteed to be breeders, low cost commercial does that I am reselling are not, and you don't need to come running back to me within a few weeks to get a replacement.

Contrary to popular opinion, the most important piece of paper you get with your purchase is not the registration papers showing a pedigree full of Ennobled or Permanent Grand Champion sires and dams. The most important piece of paper you get is the guarantee for the animal, and you should spend more time reading and understanding that document before you make your purchase than you spend reading the animal's pedigree. If the guarantee isn't satisfactory you should walk away.

Herd Sires

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This page updated 07/26/02