February 2009 Issue

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MAKING AUCTIONS WORK FOR YOU

Almost everyone who raises meat goats at some time needs to use the services of a commercial auction house. This article provides information that will help producers determine when using an auction is the best route to follow.

The American meat-goat industry does not currently produce enough animals both to satisfy consumer meat demand and also to provide a consistent supply of breeding-quality goats to commercial auctions. Therefore, many of the goats sold at these auctions are producers' culls. "Cull" can mean anything from less-than-breeding-stock quality to slow-growing goats to goats that have internal parasite problems to animals with mastitis, CAE, CL, or other diseases that don't prevent them from being used as meat. Commercial auctions are normally sales outlets for goats destined for slaughter.

Large commercial meat-goat producers probably use auctions less than any other category of goat raiser, shipping hundreds of terminal goats by the truckload to contract buyers every week of the year. If they have a problem with a breeding doe or buck, it can be put on the trailer with the other goats headed for slaughter.

Producers of quality breeding stock must cull more heavily than other goat raisers to maintain a high standard of excellence. Breeding for kidding at specific times of the year is not as critical as it is for slaughter producers, the latter of whom must have their goats ready for ethnic markets at times when demand is highest. Unless breeding-stock producers have developed a local market for their culls, commercial auctions may be the best path to sale. If the culls are ready for market when prices are low, it still may be more cost effective to sell them rather than hold them until market conditions improve.

Hobbyists, pet-goat owners, and show-goat breeders are often small-scale operations who usually don't concern themselves with slaughter-market timing. Show-goat breeders must produce animals based upon the timing of the shows for which they sell goats. These producers should develop a local ethnic clientele to whom they can sell directly from the farm. If this sales method is not desirable (examples: people living alone who don't want strangers dropping in, dogs on site that might bite visitors, location too remote to pull much traffic), then slaughtering and eating the cull goats or using a commercial auction are alternatives.

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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Everyone who raises goats should become familiar with the meat-goat market in their areas. Learn about local ethnic groups and their meat preferences. Locate several of the closest commercial auctions and visit before the sale to find out how goats are handled and treated in the pens and during the sale to learn how goats are sold and who the buyers are. Order buyers in Texas make the rounds of every significant auction that holds a sale each week. They have accounts established at each auction and may be told in advance what will be offered for sale. If a producer has an attractive or unique group of goats to take to the sale, he should tell the auction owner at least 10 days prior to delivering the goats so that these animals can be advertised to draw motivated buyers. Don't expect to sell directly to the order buyers; they aren't going to spend their time going to individual farms to examine, buy, and pick up small groups of goats. Order buyers have established arrangements with each commercial auction for payment and delivery that a single goat raiser cannot match.

Certainly not all goats sold at commercial auctions are diseased or defective, but the producer must recognize that these animals have been comingled with many other goats during sorting and penning and have therefore been exposed to organisms to which they have not had time to develop immunities. Some of these goats may have been through the auction before, bought, taken home, determined to be not what the buyer wanted, and returned for sale once again. Some people buy and sell goats regularly at auction, trying to make money on the spread in prices at different sales. Buyers at auctions -- any type of auction -- get what they see and what they don't see. There are no guarantees or warranties given at auctions.

A producer who wants to buy goats from a commercial auction to take home to use for breeding purposes should be wary of their origins and exposures. Understand that auctions are very busy places that operate on tight timeframes. Many times goats are dropped off by sellers immediately before auction time and placed into pens. Some auctions attempt to place a seller's goats in a lot by themselves and run them through the ring together. If the seller has only a few goats, they get mixed in with others, usually of similar size. Auction management usually tries to handle the animals as infrequently as possible to reduce stress on them.

Before the sale, walk the pens and determine goats of interest. Attempt to learn who is selling them and why they are being sold. Did the seller raise them or buy them from someone else for re-sale? Ask the goats' ages, backgrounds, breed or crossbreed, breeding status (open, bred, just kidded, recently weaned kids, how many times bred -- if female). If possible, check does' udders for mastitis and young intact males for undescended testicles. Examine each goat identified for possible purchase and find out as much as possible about it and its owner before the auction begins. If this isn't possible, and it often is not (see previous paragraphs for reasons), then goats purchased should be checked for these defects when taken home. If some piece of information doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. Buying cheap can mean buying someone else's problems; that goat will turn out to be the most expensive animal ever purchased.

Quarrantine newly-bought goats on the farm in a pen already established for this purpose and keep them in quarrantine for at least a full month. Deworm, then vaccinate against overeating disease, tetanus, and pneumonia. Don't take anyone's word that all of this has been done; assume that they will need every preventative treatment that responsible producers utilize. Ease the goats onto their new diet. Chances are good that they've been underfed or improperly fed. At the very least, the goats will be very stressed. A drastic change in diet will cause rumen problems which means sick and sometimes dead goats. Trim hooves. Check for loose or missing teeth. Even if the goats haven't been bought as long-term breeding stock, they still must be in good health with useable teeth, udders, testicles, legs, and hooves to serve the purpose for which they were purchased. Some of them will be returned and run through auctions again because they will be found to be unsuitable for the buyer's needs. This is a normal part of the process of buying goats at commercial auctions.

Commercial goat auctions can and do serve a vital purpose in each producer's business plan. Everyone who raises goats must decide how auctions can work for them -- whether selling or buying is the goal.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
ONION CREEK RANCH 1-25-09

 

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