Sale Now On!

As part of her se­ries on suc­cess­ful breed­ing, Jack Smellie looks at mak­ing the best use of pri­vate sales to part with your pre­cious young stock

Country Smallholding - - Contents -

Sell­ing young stock pri­vately,

Af­ter all the hard work of choos­ing breed­ing stock, nur­tur­ing them through the au­tumn tups and the spring births, the stage that quite a few small­hold­ers dread is reached — that of sell­ing pre­cious young­sters.

Sell­ing ‘live’ stock and sell­ing it pri­vately is a method used al­most ex­clu­sively by a large num­ber of the smaller small­hold­ers with just a hand­ful of an­i­mals. This method is favoured for two rea­sons: first and fore­most is a strong desire on the part of the seller to know ex­actly who they are sell­ing to. Sec­ondly, it po­ten­tially puts the seller in com­plete con­trol to both set the price and de­cide whether or not to ac­tu­ally go ahead with the sale.

So why do some small­hold­ers (us in­cluded) of­ten dread sell­ing stock on? Some of it is due to our ar­ro­gance, for want of a bet­ter word, but also to our deep care and love for our stock, be­cause we in­vari­ably think that no one else can pos­si­bly look af­ter our an­i­mals as well as we do. This ap­plies whether they are top qual­ity rare breeds or our own per­fectly formed cross-breeds from solid and re­li­able par­ent stock that we have had for years. Many small­hold­ers also dread sell­ing stock be­cause, if life was dif­fer­ent — if we all had more money, time and land — many of us would prob­a­bly want to keep much of what we breed any­way.

The way we sell our stock and the emo­tional jour­ney that this in­volves is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the rea­sons we breed in the first place, as well as the success we have had. If, for ex­am­ple, we look at rare breeds, the main rea­son for breed­ing is to help pre­serve the an­i­mals con­cerned, but, in do­ing so, to breed per­fect ex­am­ples that can then be bred from in turn. If we sell on any of these per­fect ex­am­ples we are go­ing to want to find very spe­cial homes for them, where our good work will be con­tin­ued and the pride we felt at pro­duc­ing such top qual­ity stock will be ap­pre­ci­ated.

The same is true for all reg­is­tered/ pure stock. Breed­ers can spend years devel­op­ing par­tic­u­lar looks and traits and lines and it can be bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing if, in sell­ing such stock on, they are not looked af­ter prop­erly or are bred in such a way as to un­der­mine the orig­i­nal breed­ing pro­grammes.

Af­ter the deal is done

But how much can orig­i­nal breed­ers con­trol what hap­pens to their stock once it leaves the farm and, cru­cially, do they have any right to do so?

The an­swer to the first is ‘not a lot’ and to the sec­ond, well… it is de­bat­able.

James Waite from Lin­colnshire had an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence one year when he sold some Le­ices­ter­shire Long­wool ewe lambs to some­one who then ac­ci­den­tally al­lowed the ram in. The re­sult­ing lambs

were smaller than they should have been and the ewe lambs them­selves, in lamb­ing at a mere one year old, had stunted growth. The Le­ices­ter­shire Long­wool So­ci­ety was not massively for­giv­ing about this even though it had been to­tally out of James’ hands. James now only ever sells shear­ling ewes: a re­spon­si­ble move by a re­spon­si­ble breeder.

Small­hold­ers, how­ever, don’t al­ways sell on stock as po­ten­tial breed­ing an­i­mals. Some may get sold to be raised for meat, or kept as pets, or as lawn mow­ers and ground clear­ers. Some an­i­mals are sold on for very spe­cific jobs as­so­ci­ated with their breed: al­pacas as poul­try guards, horses to work the land, etc. Do we care as much about a new owner if an an­i­mal is go­ing to be eaten in a few months as op­posed to liv­ing a long and happy life breed­ing or work­ing? The an­swer is: we hope so.

It is im­por­tant to be able to clar­ify why we have bred stock in the first place and why we are then sell­ing them, be­cause if this isn’t clear then we may well not be able to make the best de­ci­sions about who we are sell­ing to. There is no doubt that a great many small­hold­ers breed be­cause they love breed­ing. We, for ex­am­ple, ut­terly adore goats and goat kids, find­ing them the most en­gag­ing an­i­mals we have and, while we keep four goats in or­der to both milk them and eat their meat, we don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to breed from all of them ev­ery year. A goat can stay in milk for years af­ter kid­ding if man­aged ap­pro­pri­ately and we cer­tainly don’t need to put goat meat in the freezer ev­ery sea­son either, but we still breed ev­ery year be­cause we love the ex­pe­ri­ence. Of course, this does mean that we have kids to sell each sum­mer and we would be ir­re­spon­si­ble if we didn’t try to find the best homes for them. Many small­hold­ers breed be­cause un­less they can make money from their core stock they can’t keep them: they breed in or­der to keep breed­ing. Hav­ing al­ready es­tab­lished that some breed­ers breed in or­der to keep the breed num­bers sta­ble or im­prove them, we all know that the best way to keep rare breeds go­ing is to sell them to peo­ple who want to eat them.

Set­tling on a price tag

On the as­sump­tion that breed­ers want to find the best pos­si­ble homes for their young stock — no mat­ter what their in­tended pur­pose — how is it pos­si­ble to en­sure that great own­ers are found and what can be done to en­sure that the whole process of sell­ing goes as smoothly as pos­si­ble?

Ini­tially a breeder needs to de­cide two things: firstly to have a clear ob­jec­tive for the pur­pose of the stock they are sell­ing. Are they be­ing sold for meat, or breed­ing, or as a pet, etc? Sec­ondly, the seller must have a price in mind and that also means price range. What are you go­ing to set as your ini­tial price and what are you pre­pared to drop to? Re­mem­ber that you can go down, but you can’t go up.

Pric­ing stock is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially in a small­holder’s first year. Re­search and see­ing what the mar­ket is say­ing are key here, but any small­holder also needs to take into ac­count:

Your ex­pen­di­ture to date; The orig­i­nal cost of the breed­ing stock; What you ac­tu­ally need and/or want to make so that the whole ex­er­cise has been worth­while.

The more you breed and sell, the more con­fi­dent you will be­come, but as a be­gin­ner you can find help, in­clud­ing from breed so­ci­eties who will as­sist in valu­ing an­i­mals either re­motely or via a visit. Many coun­ties have small­hold­ing as­so­ci­a­tions that can put you in touch with other breed­ers to do the same. You can also trawl though the nu­mer­ous Face­book groups, live­stock sell­ing web­sites, etc, and make as­tute com­par­isons — or even ask the ques­tion di­rect of your fel­low Face­book­ers. You do, how­ever, have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to fel­low breed­ers not to set your price tag too far above or be­low the aver­age. If you over­price your stock without a good rea­son, it could be as­sumed that there is some­thing wrong with any stock that is sell­ing for less. If you un­der­price, per­haps be­cause you want a quick sale, you are then de­valu­ing the work of other breed­ers.

Spread­ing the word

An­other con­sid­er­a­tion is where to ad­ver­tise. In a re­cent sur­vey on the Cel­e­brat­ing Small­hold­ing UK Face­book page, Face­book and other so­cial me­dia came out on top, with the next choice lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ing, with auc­tions and mar­kets get­ting less than 10% of the votes. Iron­i­cally, Face­book has now banned the sale of an­i­mals on its plat­form, but not all an­i­mal sales posts get re­jected and when they do peo­ple sim­ply re­vert to us­ing a dis­cus­sion post as op­posed to a sales post. It may sound a bit hit and miss, but sell­ing live­stock via Face­book is still em­i­nently pos­si­ble. The po­ten­tial au­di­ence that can

be reached re­mains huge and it is easy to cre­ate posts, edit them and delete them.

The down­side is that you are po­ten­tially deal­ing with a whole host of strangers, some of whom may mess you around and/ or be disin­gen­u­ous about their in­ten­tions. In the­ory, the wheat should be sorted from the chaff when po­ten­tial buy­ers come to view, but first check out any­one who wants to visit your small­hold­ing by view­ing their so­cial me­dia pro­file and search­ing for them in other groups/pages. Also try en­gag­ing them in Mes­sen­ger con­ver­sa­tions by ask­ing them ques­tions.

Preloved and Sell My Live­stock are two other pop­u­lar choices for sell­ing stock and some peo­ple have their own web­sites, which, if kept up to date, can be a source of great ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion for a po­ten­tial new owner to check you out.

One of the best ways of sell­ing re­mains word of mouth, al­though this does take time to es­tab­lish. Breed­ers with good rep­u­ta­tions will of­ten have wait­ing lists and, in an ideal world, this is what to aim for.

Mandy Col­bourne, who comes from Car­marthen­shire, be­lieves that her rep­u­ta­tion is down to breed­ing top qual­ity reg­is­tered, rare breed stock and hav­ing the pa­per­work to sup­port it. Hav­ing a wait­ing list also le­git­imises your breed­ing pro­gramme, know­ing that you have peo­ple who want your stock, not just that breed. Al­though it wasn’t a de­lib­er­ate ploy, we of­fered free farm walks last sum­mer through our lo­cal small­hold­ing as­so­ci­a­tion and then se­cured sev­eral sales from some of the peo­ple who came. It was a lovely way of sell­ing be­cause, in be­long­ing to the same small­hold­ers’ club, there was im­me­di­ate com­mon ground and the farm walk it­self pro­vided a chance for both sides to get to know each other in real life.

Honesty is the best pol­icy

To at­tract the best kind of buyer, a breeder needs to make them­selves the best kind of seller. Their ad­verts should be to­tally hon­est and give as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble. Pho­tos should show the stock in clean, tidy and en­vi­ron­men­tally-rich sur­round­ings. Price de­tails should be clear. Of­fer­ing el­e­ments such as post-sales ad­vice and hav­ing the an­i­mal back if it doesn’t work out will show how se­ri­ous the ven­dor is about that an­i­mal’s wel­fare.

Make it clear that a full health his­tory of the stock — vac­ci­na­tions, worm­ing, etc — will also be pro­vided, as well as de­tails of the an­i­mal’s breed­ing. With any reg­is­tered an­i­mal this will be backed up with sup­port­ing pa­per­work, but if it is un­reg­is­tered clear in­for­ma­tion about the im­me­di­ate parent­age should be re­vealed at the very least.

Some sellers will in­spect po­ten­tial new homes be­fore they fi­nally agree to any sale of their stock. The next best thing is to speak on the phone and/or ask for pho­tos or even — as done by Tana Sheri­dan from Devon for a re­cent sheep sale to Stokeon-Tent — of­fer to de­liver the an­i­mals con­cerned. That way you re­tain con­trol — in­clud­ing chang­ing your mind — right up to the last minute.

Keep­ing in touch af­ter the event is im­por­tant too. I al­ways ask for (and usu­ally re­ceive) pic­tures of the an­i­mals set­tled in at their new home.

Debbi Green from Pem­brokeshire de­lighted in a re­cent email she re­ceived from some­one who had bought a ram from her. The mes­sage read that he was now “a true mem­ber of the fam­ily and en­joy­ing a mas­sage twice a day”. And both Avril Wooster in Devon and El­lie Has­ton in Ire­land point out that many of their cus­tomers are now their friends; they get to see up­dates on Face­book and see pic­tures of the off­spring they have then bred.

If you are sell­ing to first-time own­ers you should give as much in­for­ma­tion as you can about how to look af­ter the an­i­mals, in­clud­ing ask­ing about (or in­spect­ing) their set ups. Hope­fully, you can demon­strate on your own small­hold­ing the kind of en­vi­ron­ment the an­i­mals need: good fenc­ing, hous­ing, space, etc. You may also want to check that they have a good vet and un­der­stand the rules about hold­ing num­bers and move­ment li­censes.

Most peo­ple get a feel­ing pretty quickly about the peo­ple who want to buy their stock. The key here is to never be afraid to say no. As Sher­ran Parry-Wil­liams from West Wales says: “It would [we hope] be un­usual for some­one to pay a de­cent price for a breed­ing an­i­mal and not look af­ter it. I think the small­holder ded­i­ca­tion to small flocks, health and well­be­ing adds value to the an­i­mals and the prod­ucts. We like to buy from breed­ers and pro­duc­ers who have this phi­los­o­phy.”

But what can you do if you can’t sell the an­i­mals you have? Should you keep the stock a lit­tle longer, or even through the win­ter and try again the fol­low­ing year? Strictly speak­ing yes, be­cause the al­ter­na­tive is to lower the price, de­value the an­i­mal and/or sell to some­one who is less than de­sir­able. In prac­tice, if it means that you take twice as much stock though the win­ter, that may not be a suit­able out­come.

When it works, see­ing your stock go off to a new home in the peak of health and with peo­ple you trust is an in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Even bet­ter is keep­ing in touch and see­ing the an­i­mals flour­ish.

To at­tract the best kind of buyer, a breeder needs to make them­selves the best kind of seller. Their ad­verts should be to­tally hon­est and give as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble

Help­ing to per­pet­u­ate rare breeds can be hugely sat­is­fy­ing. These are West of Eng­land geese

Most small­hold­ers are proud of the stock they breed

An­other suc­cess­ful birth: a keeper or one to sell?

In­vest­ing time, money and love into breed­ing stock al­ways pays

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.