Goats and Contracts
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We’ve bought goats with contracts, and we’ve bought goats without. Of all of the goats we’ve sold, we’ve done well with just a basic bill of sale with a few terms … except for the times we didn’t. We’ve learned about the value of contracts to record spoken agreements. The more complicated the agreement, the more important it is to have a contract signed and dated by both the buyer and seller. People remember things differently, and sometimes not intentionally.
Some say a contract for a livestock purchase isn’t worth the paper it is printed on in court. If you anticipate lawsuits, it is probably best to consult an attorney to draft your contract. Most buyers and sellers do not want to meet in court. For us, a contract ensures clear communication and mutual agreement that protects the relationship between the buyer and seller, and protects the reputation of the seller.
There are many kinds of contracts. For livestock sales, there is a deposit or purchase agreement that defines the terms when money is first exchanged. When the purchase price is paid in full and the goat changes possession, a bill of sale is completed.
Farms and transactions are all different. A one-size-fits-all template does not cover the details likely to be forgotten if not included in the terms. Asking, and answering, the questions below can help you compose a contract that fits your specific sale:
Is a deposit required for reservation? Or full payment? How much? Is it refundable? Under what conditions? What is the full price? How (check, cash, electronically) and when should it be paid?
Is a transporter/buyer’s agent involved or will the buyer transport? Whose responsibility is it to schedule and pay for transport? If the transporter does not go to the seller, is there a cost for the seller to deliver to the transporter? Does the transporter assume liability for the animal and its condition once the animal is in its care? Are transporter/buyer’s agent authorized to inspect the animal and sign the bill of sale? Has the date and time been agreed on? What if either party is unavailable? Is there a boarding cost for late pick-up?
Is there a health certificate needed? Whose responsibility is it to schedule and pay for the veterinarian? Will the veterinarian visit the farm? Will the goat be disbudded or castrated? For does, is she dry or in milk? Has the goat received vaccinations/medical treatment? Is the goat or herd bioscreen-tested? Are the results provided? If testing is required, at whose expense? Is there a health guarantee? What are the conditions?
Is the goat a breeding prospect? Is the goat required to remain intact? Is there an agreement regarding semen collection or sales? For a doe, is she pregnant or exposed? If pregnant, how was the pregnancy confirmed? Is fertility guaranteed? Are there any known heritable genetic issues to disclose? Does the seller retain any breeding rights?
Is the goat registered? Can it be at a later date? What is the process, and who is responsible for what? Is the pedigree guaranteed? Are the goats DNA tested? What provisions are in place if there are inaccuracies found in the pedigree?
Are there any other terms or expectations?
The first five categories are fairly straightforward, but it is this category that is the hardest to do well, and where most problems arise. Did the buyer request a certain eye color/coat color/lineage? Can the seller use the reserved goat in shows, events, etc.? Does the seller have a buyback clause — and if so, who sets the price, and under what terms? Is there a provision for First Right of Refusal to offer the goat to the seller first, if the buyer decides to sell? Are there any agreements as to how the buyer may/may not use the seller’s herd name or the goat under contract in future marketing for the buyer? If anything is mentioned as a condition, it should be included in the agreement.
If a purchase agreement is completed, the Bill of Sale is simple. Identify the buyer and seller with complete names and physical addresses (needed for scrapie records). Identify the goat being purchased: name, date of birth, any permanent identification, and/or registration number. Confirm the amount paid for the goat and method of payment. We always include an inspection clause: “Buyer/Buyer’s Agent warrants that the above animals were inspected at delivery and are free of any illness or physical defect. Buyer/Buyer’s Agent accepts condition of animals, all liability, and responsibility for care.” There should be a signature and date line for buyer (or authorized representative) and seller, and both parties should receive a signed copy.
A sale is not the only circumstance where a contract is beneficial. If borrowing a buck, or boarding a doe for breeding, consider a written agreement outlining the terms. You can use the same categories: 1. Money, 2. Transport, 3. Health, 4. Breeding, 5. Registration, and 6. Special Conditions. Think of: boarding fees; length of boarding and terms for overage; any health testing required; authorization to consent for veterinary care; responsibility for veterinary costs; dietary/feed requirements; liability for illness, injury, or death; conception verification/guarantee; provision for rebreeding; responsibility for buck service papers and eligibility for registration, etc.
Grazing and events such as goat yoga and party appearances should also be covered by contract. These categories, however, pose risk to person and property, and may also require licensing. A goat owner should be familiar with laws pertaining to liability, and seek the advice of their insurance company as well as an attorney to be certain that their practice and contracts contain all of the necessary elements to be in compliance with their city ordinances and state laws.
It may feel redundant to make an agreement into a contract or feel awkward to present a contract to a friend, but it is worth the effort to ensure that everyone agrees on what was agreed upon.
Originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.