The Right Broker Can Provide Valuable Service When Purchasing A Goat Herd

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We are rapidly approaching my favorite time of the year in the goat business, fall. Many people really enjoy spring when all the kids start to hit the ground, but I find that time of year a little too unpredictable for my taste. I'm not big on surprises, and kidding season always seems to present a surprise or two every day, many of them of an unpleasant nature.

In the fall the really good things seem to happen. For one thing the intense heat and dry weather that typifies a West Texas summer are all but gone. September and October are two of our wettest months normally, and I am usually good and ready for a good rainfall after July and August, generally two of our driest months. College football season has started back up again, and I am a hard core Florida Gator fan (have been ever since 1983, my freshman year in Gainesville) who can't wait for every new season to start. Best of all, fall is the time of year that most people get serious about purchasing new goats for their herds.

Coincidentally, fall is also the time of year that most people are selling goats. The spring kids are weaned and ready to be sold, the performance tests are wrapping up, the culling has been done, and plans for next year's kid crop are complete. In short most producers know by late summer what they want to sell, and are anxious to get those goats out of the way in preparation for the breeding season.

With the continuing drought in my area this year promises to be an excellent year for people in other areas of the country to buy good commercial goats in large quantities at fair prices as West Texas ranchers further reduce their herds. For a time earlier this year it looked like the drought might be ending and the supply of goats dropped, leading to high prices. However, after the last four nearly rainless months things are looking pretty bleak around here again, and the number of commercial does available is rising again.

If you are considering starting a commercial herd in some other part of the country, how can this set of circumstances benefit you? If you aren't from the area you probably wouldn't know which ranchers are selling stock. Calling them directly to purchase animals probably isn't an option since very few commercial producers advertise the animals they have available. You could attend one of the auctions and attempt to buy your animals through the sale ring, but I wouldn't recommend that.

The first problem with buying through the sale ring is that the regulars are likely to run the bids up on you.

The second problem is that you generally have little or no info about the goats. How old are they? Why are they being sold? Do they have any health problems? What is their genetic background? Without answers to these questions you are basically playing russian roulette. You may not have a problem the first time, or the second time, but buy enough animals through the sale ring and eventually you will be sorry. The only animals that I, and many others, sell through the auction are those that should be slaughtered because they have some sort of health or other problem that makes them unsuitable as a breeding animal. If you are really unfortunate you will get some animals that appear ok, but which are carriers of a disease that will be transmitted to the rest of your herd and will contaminate your premises causing you very large and expensive problems later on.

The third problem is that even if the animals were healthy when they were taken to the auction, they have now been exposed to all kinds of viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents that were left behind by the previous occupants of the holding pens. Compounding the problem, the animals are stressed and thus more likely to become infected. These animals will appear fine at the time you purchase them, but will develop problems after you get them back to your ranch.

The fourth problem is that it is very difficult to buy animals that all originated from the same herd if you buy them through the auction. If you put together a herd from multiple sources you are likely to find that instead of one herd you have multiple herds when you get them back to your ranch. In other words, when you go out to the pasture instead of finding one group of goats happily browsing together, you find a group over here and another group over there and yet another group over yonder. This can cause huge headaches when it comes time for you to gather and work the goats.

Finally, there is no guarantee that the type of animals you are looking for will even be available at the auction that week. Nothing like traveling 800 miles to go to a sale where they aren't selling what you want.

If you can't buy the goats directly yourself, how are you supposed to start a herd? Your other option is to work with a livestock broker or dealer. The individuals who provide this type of service generally have good sources for goats direct from ranches.

As with any service, you need to be careful who you deal with since there are some unscrupulous types who are perfectly happy to sell you animals that are misrepresented. I personally know of individuals that have gone to a sale, bought percentage Boer does, took them home, tattooed them, then registered and sold them as fullbloods. I also know of several other individuals who routinely attend the local sales, buy does, then tell buyers that the does they are selling came from their own ranch. Technically it is true that the goats are coming from their ranch, but in many cases they have only been there a day or two and were purchased at the sale barn.

Fortunately, there are also some honest livestock dealers who understand that referrals are the best and least expensive type of advertising, and who will go out of their way to make sure that their clients are happy and send more business their way. The honest individuals have no problem telling you the source of the goats they are selling, not necessarily the specific name of the ranch, but whether the goats are their own, are being purchased from another producer, or were acquired through the auction.

A good dealer will be happy to take you to see the goats or send you pictures of them, and more importantly when the shipment arrives the same goats will get off the truck. The dealer should also arrange shipping and for all health tests and papers that are required. Since dealers typically ship large numbers of livestock on a regular basis, they can usually negotiate a lower rate with the trucking company than the buyer could. Generally, the dealer is located near the goats being purchased, and can arrange for a vet to provide health tests and papers at a discounted rate, again due to the volume of business the dealer can provide to the vet.

An honest dealer can help protect both the buyer and seller of the goats financially by collecting the funds from the buyer before the shipment leaves and not disbursing those funds until the dealer is satisfied that the goats are what they were represented as and that the correct number of goats is being shipped.

I recently completed a deal where after receiving the goats from the seller, it became apparent that they had not been accurately represented. We spent the better part of a morning sorting and counting those goats to determine how many were accurately represented and how many were not. After explaining the situation to the buyer, he agreed to our proposal to reprice and ship all of the goats, and the seller agreed to accept a lower price for the group. Had the buyer bought the goats directly from the seller he would not have discovered the problem until after paying for the goats, and it would have been much more difficult to rectify the situation.

I also know of sellers that have shipped goats prior to receiving payment and wound up never seeing their money. I always insist that the funds be wired into our account prior to an animal setting hoof on a trailer.

Finally, a good livestock dealer is also very knowledgeable and is happy to provide advice and support to his customers.

An honest livestock dealer can be of valuable assistance when acquiring new animals for your herd. The dealer will serve as your eyes and ears, take care of all the annoying details, protect you and the seller, and finally will provide valuable advice and support after the transaction to make sure your goat raising experience is enjoyable and rewarding. After all, we need goats to sell next year, and new customers to sell them to.

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This page updated 08/13/01

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