We bought our first livestock – a breeding trio of meat rabbits – 8 years ago. Since then we have bought more rabbits, as well as cattle, sheep, and chickens. There are many things we considered when choosing who to buy our livestock from. Obviously we were looking for good, healthy stock. But there was one thing we worked hard to do each time we purchased livestock, and it paid off ten-fold for us: buying from breeders willing to have a continued business relationship with us.
When it is your first time with a type of livestock, having a breeder that is willing to answer your questions and help you get the hang of it is such a huge help. Great breeders care about their stock. They have worked long and hard to create the line that they have and they want you to be successful with their stock because that helps their success as well. Because of this, most great breeders are willing to answer questions (whether it is via phone or email) and give you tips on how best to manage as you get started. They can help you learn the best schedules for vaccinating and worming, tips on housing and feed, help you get through the first birth, give advice on breeding (when and to which male), and what to do when something unexpected happens. It is absolutely worth it to select a great breeder that is willing to answer your questions long-term over one that might be more popular, or have more prize-winning stock but doesn’t want to help you once you drive away. We also feel it is worth it to pay more for stock from a great breeder willing to have a continued relationship with us versus paying less but not getting that relationship.
Whether it is your first time with a type of livestock, or you have owned them for years, having access to resources through your breeder is super beneficial. Most little backyard homesteads like ours don’t have the space or resources to keep breeding males. A bull, ram, buck, or boar means higher levels of management, more space needed, and often more danger for a little farm. By having a good continuing relationship with the breeder, you can often have access to their breeding males. You will of course still have a stud fee, but it will be less hassle, there will be a level of trust when leaving your females since the breeder cares about your stock too, and you will more clearly know what you are getting from their stock because of your familiarity with them. You also might have access to other resources through them: feed suppliers, suppliers of tools and such needed for that livestock, vet services, other breeders and their bloodlines, etc. An example would be that we have been blessed by our relationship with the breeder we bought our sheep from because we have access to shearing services that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
If you are in the market to buy some livestock we absolutely suggest that you don’t just look at the animals when making your decision – look at the owner/breeder too, and make sure they are willing to continue the business relationship with you.