From The Memsahib: Buyer Beware When Purchasing Livestock

While most of my livestock purchases over the years have been satisfactory, I have found that buying livestock can be full of pitfalls. I will share some of my mistakes in hopes you can learn from them. I have found livestock sellers may not outright lie to buyers but they often do not volunteer important information. So it is very important that you get a detailed book for each type of livestock you plan to purchase and do some research, so you’ll know exactly what questions to ask. Make certain the book has a chapter about choosing healthy stock. The book ought to give you signs of unhealthy or poorly conforming animals as well as questions to ask the sellers about the health of the animals.

The first time I bought sheep I did not know to ask if the yearling lambs I was buying had been wormed. Unfortunately the five lambs I bought had not been wormed. Because of the parasite load they were carrying, they were not able to withstand the stress of the transport, feed change, and new environment. They quickly developed pneumonia despite all I did to try to keep them alive. Two out of the five died. No, the seller would not refund any of my money.

I paid a premium price for the first dairy cow I bought because supposedly she was “due to calve” in less than two months. I did not ask the seller to have a veterinarian certify she was bred. (My mistake!) She never calved and the seller would not refund the extra that I paid for a “due to calve” cow. We drank store bought milk for an extra year because of this mistake.

Then there was the pair of a angora rabbits I purchased. I assumed wrongly that since I was buying a “breeding pair” that meant they would breed. I did not think to ask the breeder to demonstrate that the male had all his necessary parts. He didn’t. No, the seller would not refund my money.

Temperament is another important component of purchasing livestock. Animals with bad temperaments can be difficult to work with or down right dangerous. Don’t take the seller’s word for the temperament of the animals, insist on seeing a demonstration. Even better arrive early, to see the animals before the seller has a chance to get the animal “ready”.

I told the seller of my second cow, that I intended to show her at the Fair and milk her. He kept expressing on the phone to me how wonderful that would be. I neglected to ask for a demonstration of her being haltered, led, or being milked. He neglected to tell me she was more feral than a March Hare. The only time I was able to milk her was when she was immobilized in a squeeze chute!

Then there was the horse supposedly “gentle enough for a novice to ride bareback. But the seller kept postponing our meeting and postponing until it was getting quite late even though we had driven several hours to see the horse. When we finally were met by the sellers, the seller’s daughter who supposedly was the only person who knew how to ride never showed up. Because it was late and getting dark and we had a long drive home, and they just seemed so honest we bought the horse on the seller’s word that I, a novice, could ride the horse bareback with just a snaffle bit . Later when I rode this horse at our ranch, after he discovered that I could bring him under control when he tried running away with me, his next trick was balking–refusing to move at all. When I repeatedly urged him forward he started rearing and bucking. No, the sellers would not take the horse back and refund our money.

Do your homework. Find out all the questions you should ask, find out what parts you should inspect and what to look out for. Insist on seeing the animals handled, haltered, led, ridden, milked, as applicable. By the way, if the seller is only able to manage the animals with well-trained stock dogs, then how are you going to manage them? Do not let the seller’s position as president of the breed association or their religious affiliation cause you to believe they would not mislead you or omit information in order to make a sale. Sadly I have found this out the hard way, “Buyer beware” should be your watch words as you purchase livestock–even from the breed association president, and even more sadly sometimes from people who claim to be of the same religious beliefs as your own.