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What to look out for when buying cattle

Mon, 12 August 2013 02:49
by Dr Baby
Columns

The word was out from the President and the Agriculture Minister that farmers should sell more of their livestock as a drought mitigating measure.
The farmers have started the process of subsidy collection already and everywhere in the Agriculture Extension offices across the country, producers who have sold their livestock are queuing up to register for subsidy.
Some of the emerging farmers are utilising this opportunity to stock on their breeding animals.
But you won’t belief how many ‘skelm stories’ happen when you are buying livestock from another farmer.
In this article, let’s look at a few tips to be on the lookout for when buying cows for breeding purposes.
Before you even think of buying a particular animal, ask yourself why is the other farmer selling the beast in the first place?
And why do you want to buy the animal as well? Is it maybe for breeding or just for meat? As a rule of thumb, most farmers sell their faulty or problem animals or the ones they just wish to get rid of for one reason or another.  
If you wish to buy animals for breeding, then your selection criteria is even stricter and you have to be careful than when buying a beast for own consumption or when fattening it to it sell later on for meat. When buying cattle for breeding, first rule of thumb is; does the animal show potential for reproducing?
Firstly, look at the age. Before buying the cow, take time to open her mouth and look at her teeth to estimate the age.  Secondly, look at the size and confirmation of the reproduction organs and udder. A cow that has good potential to breed will have well developed vulva and you will see the development of an udder.
Sometimes, you are tempted to buy a good looking fatty cow that is well muscled. But once, again, if it so well-muscled and big, why is its owner selling it? It is most likely that this animal has never even produced a single calf in her life. Probably, it is one of those females that are mating other cows, those ones that have more male hormones (testosterone) than it is normally supposed to. Or it could be that it has calving difficulty all the time, maybe it has a small birth canal that makes it difficult for the calf to come out. The other most common problems that drive our seasoned farmers to sell a good looking cow is that, it could be the cow has a tendency to retain its afterbirth (placenta) or it  is prone to have vaginal prolapse (the womb falls out).
Look out for the temperament of the animal. Maybe the owner is selling the animal because it is difficult to manage it, because it is “wayward” or wild (like a kudu) and jump fences or just runs havoc.
Then there are those thin, small framed animals. You might think that you will just fatten them up and they will give you a good calf. But be careful, you might be buying those calves that lost its mother at a young age and probably didn’t get enough “first milk” (colostrum), hence the skinny scruffy look.  How is this heifer supposed to mate with your (big) bull? The poor thing might probably end up being injured. Unless of course, if you are ready to wait for another two years or so before you introduce it to a bull.
Furthermore, never consider buying an animal that is either lame or is not standing on its own. Sometimes, farmers take chances when they discover a particular faulty animal in their herd and they just wait for the auction or permit days to squeeze this animal in the market. You will hear that  “I don’t know what happened; this animal was fine when I loaded it at home, maybe it is just stiff from the trip”. I myself, I fell for the same scam. I thought to myself, now that I have sold a male calf, why don’t I just buy a female one at the auction with the money. Then a farmer convinced me to buy his calf that was apparently lame from the long distance driving and could not stand on its own.
After a week of intense therapy on this calf, it unfortunately died- my hard earned money down the drain. But the worse was, when I opened the dead animal, there were all sorts of junk in the stomach from plastics, to milking ropes to human hair. It must have been a long term problem and the owner probably knew about it.  You might be desperate to stock on your breeding animals or wish to use the drought as an opportunity to stock up, but don’t fall for tricks that might become economical suicide for you in future.
Be very careful when buying breeding animals from your fellow farmers. I said it!!!
Garamushe,