By Dr Clive Dalton
What to buy depends on what’s available at the time and what the current market is like. If mohair is out of fashion, then does will be a lot cheaper than when fibre prices are good and people are talking about an approaching boom!
An established flock is described as “age-balanced” as it is made up of all ages from:
- Yearlings (goatlings)
- 5-year olds (full mouth) and older. After five you cannot age goats by their teeth eruption.
Normally there are a higher proportion of younger animals kept, as over time they‘ll be culled out for a variety of reasons (mainly health).
Top performing goats may be kept until they die and may live to 7-8 years old or more. These old proven dams can be used as the mothers of future sires if they have had many years of proven top production over a range of seasons.
Some purchasing options are:
- Buy mixed-age (MA) does to start off an age-balanced flock.
- Buy all young goats (kids or yearlings) as they have their full lives ahead.
- Buy old goats. These will have been cast for age (CFA) with a limited life ahead of them. But the fact that they are still in the flock tells you that they must have performed well over a range of seasons so must have valuable genetics.
- Buy empty or pregnant does or does with kids at foot.
- Buy does running with the buck (RWB). They may or may not be pregnant.
- Buying a buck is an extremely important job and it’s important to find a source of animals with performance records. If there are no records, you should at least have fleece sample tested before purchase, even if you have to pay for it. (See fibre testing).
- Due to the high cost of a top proven male, breeders with small flocks should look at leasing or sharing a buck with other breeders.
How to buy & sell stock
At public auctions
Initially you may want to buy (and sell) your own stock, especially if you consider that stock companies and their agents charge too much and their service is less than you demand. Consider these points:
- The more sales you attend, the more people will find out who you are – which may be a good or a bad thing.
- You can check the sale reports in the local papers or contact a Stock and Station Agent for comment about prices at the most recent sales.
- But remember agents can get fed up with your evening calls, especially if you don’t give them any business.
- Public sales can be a competition or battle ground which you are about to enter – usually with little experience. But don’t let that put you off – it’s the only place to learn the business.
- You must register with the office at saleyards before a sale, and get a number that the auctioneer will use to record your identity and purchase.
- Remember that a bid is an unconditional offer.
- Also remember that you’ll be noticed straight away by the sale regulars as a “newchum”. It’s inevitable that you’ll be far too well dressed, as even your old clothes will look far too smart!
- Don’t take anyone along as your adviser who is not a genuine farmer as they’ll stand out like new chums too.
- If you are going to bid on stock yourself, then your lack of experience will show and you’ll be signalling for all to see. Some new buyers in ignorance and excitement even bid against themselves! Auctioneers don’t mind you doing this - they’ll take all the bids they can get.
- Check what the commission rate is going to be beforehand, as these can vary, depending on how long a customer you have been and how much you are prepared to complain. Normally rates are around 6% but for stud stock you can be charged up to 13%.
With the help of a stock agent
- Stock agents will be keen to do this for you in the hope that they’ll get your future business. You should not pay commission on purchases – vendors pay on stock sold.
- Check what the commission will be, because it’s a lot more at “stud” sales that ordinary sales. It can be double ordinary sale rates.
- You must give the agent a very clear brief of what is your financial limit, and don’t be surprised when the agent always goes to that limit.
- When buying (and selling) through a registered Stock and Station Agency, your money should be safe, and you‘ll get the stock delivered after you have paid for them.
- But always read the small print in the terms and conditions of a livestock contract. There are no “guarantees”. History shows that in the event of financial problems when companies have had serious financial disaster, farmers are always last to get a share of what little is left.
- There are also one-person livestock agencies that operate from their home offices. They have lower overheads than the big companies so can be very competitive on charges and offer a very personal service.
- But check out their financial status before offering them too much business. You may have to wait some days after the sale for your money and your bank manager may not like this arrangement, so check it out with him/her before you do business.
With the help of a farming mentor
- If you don’t want to use an agent, you can get a farming “mentor” who can do the bidding for you.
- Don’t stand near them at the sale, as you’ll give the game away. Have some means of signalling your approval to them from a distance or when you want to stop bidding.
Privately in the paddock
- Here you avoid all the hassle of the saleyards and can take time over the business. This is a big plus if you are not happy at the saleyards.
- There are no commission or transport costs to pay. The purchaser pays the transport costs unless the vendor is very generous.
- You and the buyer must come to an agreed value in the paddock. You can base this on recent auction reports or simple bargaining till you agree.
- There is always the concern over money. You should insist on getting the money (in hand or in the bank) before you part with your stock.
- You may need to involve your bank to verify that the buyer’s cheque has arrived in your account before you hand over the stock.
Privately on the Internet
- There are Internet sites now that offer this service with the big advantage that no or very low commission or transport costs are involved. The purchaser normally pays the transport unless the vendor is feeling generous.
- You can quote a price or ask for offers or tenders and take the highest by a certain date and time.
- Websites selling livestock have important requirements about accurate description of stock and payment details. Surprisingly few problems of non-payment have arisen as buyers are often asked to comment on vendors’ integrity with previous transactions. If you have developed a bad reputation as a trader – it’s hard to keep it quiet on the Internet!
- Current auctioneers hate this idea and say it will never work as buyers always have to inspect animals with their own eyes. Old traditional buyers certainly did, but things are changing fast with much more emphasis on providing documented information on stock for sale.
- Success depends on accurate description of the stock and there is plenty of space to provide full details on a website on their past history, breeding, feeding, animal health treatments, current weight and even digital photos or video clips.
- This is a lot more comprehensive than the quick-fire three-second verbal blessing of animals an auctioneer gives each pen at the sale yards.
- You can always go and see the stock and talk to the vendor on the farm. This is an invaluable opportunity to learn.