'Observing norms in the sale of maiden heifers is simply courtesy'
Published 19/12/2012 | 06:00
I AM writing in response to an open forum letter dated December 4, 2012, on the subject of in calf heifers.
While the author's intentions may be honourable, this letter is actually doing a disservice to farmers selling heifers that subsequently turn out to be in calf.
In this situation, it is generally accepted that it is the responsibility of the seller to ascertain as to whether the animals he is selling are pregnant at the point of sale.
If an animal is at a later stage proven to be pregnant at the point of selling again the norm is for the seller to take responsibility and compensate the buyer.
The opinion letter that I reference seems to contradict this well established and practiced principle.
Taking responsibility at an early stage is significantly less costly to all parties.
Young maiden heifers may not always show obvious signs of pregnancy until very close to calving. It is very difficult to visually detect pregnancy when these animals are being fed a high level of concentrate feed.
Feeding high levels of energy to a pregnant animal creates serious complications at the point of calving.
Oversized calves, caesareans, still born calves and, in a lot of cases, the loss of the heifer and calf are quite common outcomes.
It is unacceptable to expect the buyer to bear the costs in relation to this.
If the calf does survive, then generally these animals have a 'nuisance factor' around most intensively run units that focus solely on finishing beef.
If the heifer survives the calving she will fall back to a monetary value close to what she initially bought for and the buyer is left with a host of bills. Most farmers who buy these animals cannot sell them on as in-calf heifers or return them to the owner as they are invariably 'locked up' with TB.
This is just the nature of the business when buying in hundreds or thousands of animals every year.
It is lunacy to expect the buyer to pregnancy test every heifer he buys at a cost of €60 per animal to confirm that an animal that he has bought as a maiden heifer is not in calf.
In many cases this €60 is the profit made on an intensively fed heifer, if the buyer is lucky.
Another problem being encountered by heifer buyers are heifers that have been injected before selling to abort the foetus.
In these cases the heifer may not 'clean' properly which can create serious health problems and even the loss of the heifer.
Nine times out of 10 problems like these can be sorted out amicably between the buyer and seller.
The problems generally only occur when the seller refuses to accept responsibility and breaks with the common and long practiced principle.
James and Nigel McDermott,