Buying livestock

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The DoneDeal guide to buying livestock

Making the purchase

  • Marts remain popular, but tech-smart tractor owners have turned online to buy livestock.
  • An increasing number of farmers are advertising livestock with DoneDeal. A wide range of pigs, cows, sheep and goats are available.
  • Regardless of how you purchase stock you need to ensure the sale runs smoothly and the safety of both new animals and your existing herd are maintained.

Buying basics

  • Every animal has two tags and a passport. Ask the seller for the passport when buying. Check the validity of passports and tags before purchase.
  • If it’s possible, bring a vet with you.
  • Ask the seller about the vaccines that have been given to the animal.

Research the seller

  • Research the seller to ensure they are legitimate. Take time to see if they genuinely want to make a sale and that the stock is good quality.
  • Use forums to ask previous buyers about their experiences with the seller.
  • Visit the seller before buying. His farm will give you a good indication of how the animals are kept.
  • Word of mouth is the best way to find out about a seller, particularly if buying locally.

Herd health

  • Buying in animals increases the risk of infectious diseases entering your herd.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine recommends that you buy “multiple animals from a single source rather than single animals from multiple sources” to avoid diseases entering your herd.

Infectious diseases

  • It is illegal to sell cattle unless they had a TB test within the last year.
  • Check the animals’ blue card or medical passport to ensure the seller has complied with TB and brucellosis testing.
  • A farmer does not have to tell the buyer if the animal has bovine virus diarrhoea (BVD) or has been tested.
  • Ask the seller if they have a BVD, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) or Johne's management programme in place. Ask for certificates.
  • Do not buy new stock at a time when there are susceptible animals in your herd like pregnant heifers or newborn calves.

Pregnant animals

  • The pregnancy status of an animal can give rise to disputes. At livestock marts, if an animal is being sold, it can be declared 'not calved'.
  • If you plan to feed a heifer for beef, an animal in calf will scupper those plans. Ask the seller if it has calved.

Moving livestock

  • Within Ireland, all movement of bovine animals is tracked under the Cattle Movement Monitoring System (CMMS) which essentially is a numbered ear- tag on each animal. This is a requirement of the Department of Agriculture.
  • CMMS compliance certificates must be issued, even when selling privately and directly to another farm, before cattle are sold. It’s the law.
  • Animals have identity cards. They must appear on on-farm herd registers and computerised databases with full information on animal identity.
  • The national database can be checked to ensure a calf was registered.

After you buy

  • Beware of inadvertent disease issues. An animal may be sold in good faith, but its immune system may need to adjust to your farm.
  • Quarantine the animal for one month and separate your feeding and calving areas for new and old animals.
  • Ensure the quarantine area is for new stock only, not for sick animals.
  • Prevent all contact between groups of cattle.
  • Test new pregnant animals for the BVD virus and keep them separate from your stock until both the dam and calf have been tested.
  • Test all new animals within three weeks, and before vaccinating and treating for parasites.
  • Introduce animals to your existing herd after all test results have been returned.

We chatted to Eddie Punch, general secretary with the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association.