“I’m looking at buying a sweeper bull to run with my cows later in the breeding season. A neighbouring farmer who got caught with a sub-fertile bull last year was warning me to ensure that any bull I buy is fertility tested. Is this enough to cover me? What are my rights if the bull turns out to be sub-fertile or infertile?”

Sterile infertile bulls are rare and probably not as costly as sub-fertile bulls because sterile bulls are normally identified and replaced early as cows repeat every 21 days.

Consequently, the seller and/or buyer should ensure that any bull being bought or sold is fertility tested to identify and differentiate sub-fertile and infertile bulls from bulls of high fertility potential. I understand that the internationally accepted definition of a normal fertile bull is that he be able to achieve over 90% pregnancy rate with a group of 50 normal cyclic disease free females over a nine-week period. This is at odds with what is acceptable as a fertile bull in some bull sales and the buyer will be bound by the particular terms and conditions contained in the sales catalogue of the bull sale at which he/she makes a purchase.

Bull fertility guarantee

If you are buying the bull at a pedigree sale, you should review a copy of the sales catalogue for the sale at which you purchase the bull.

The sales catalogue for society premier bull sales often provides a bull fertility guarantee and indemnity in circumstances where fertility cannot be guaranteed at the time of sale. In the copy that I have reviewed, it provides that the seller guarantees that each bull is capable of getting stock in calf, by natural service, from 14 months of age which shall be deemed to be fulfilled as soon as five females, or 50%, whichever is the lesser number of animals put to the bull are in calf to the bull by natural service subsequent to the sale.

Where it is not possible to prove the fertility of bulls at the time of sale due to their age, the seller may indemnify the buyer against infertility by including with the sale a certificate of insurance to cover infertility.

The insurance policy and/or terms and conditions of sale will specify the procedure to adopt in the event of the bull being infertile. The bull shall be fairly tried with a view to putting a female in a state of pregnancy by natural service within two months of the date of sale or within two months of attaining the age of 14 months, whichever is later.

If the buyer cannot fairly try the bull within this time, due to the buyer’s normal calving programme, the insurers must be informed in writing immediately after the sale of the month in which it is proposed to start using the bull. The date of the commencement of the trial period can be extended to the first day of the month in which the buyer proposes to start using the bull.

Claiming under indemnity

If the buyer discovers that the bull is incapable of putting a female in a state of pregnancy, he/she is obliged to notify the insurers by registered post not before one month but not exceeding three months from the date of sale or the bull attaining 14 months of age or any extension of the trial period.

The insurers will then furnish a bull fertility report which the buyer must arrange to be completed by a vet accompanied by a certificate from that vet declaring that the infertility of the bull is not due to an injury, accident, disease or neglect happening after the sale.

The vet must certify that he has examined the females on which the bull has been tried and has found them to be in normal breeding condition. The insurer/buyer may be allowed to appoint their own vets to examine and try the bull. All claims will be between the buyer and the insurer. The seller will not be under any liability to the buyer in respect of any loss sustained by the buyer however this loss arises.

Warranties given by seller

Most private sales are agreed orally between the buyer and the seller and it is each person’s word against the other in the event of a dispute. If the seller induced you into buying a bull by stating that it was suitable for breeding, it maybe regarded as a warranty given at the time of sale. Therefore, the seller who provided this information could be held liable for loss and damage arising from the fact that the bull was not fit for breeding.

Unless the seller could prove that the bull was fertile on leaving his farm, it would be difficult for him to argue that he became infertile at a later point under your care. However, it would be open to the seller to inspect the bull at your premises to ensure that any incapacity was not caused or contributed to by injury or illness, which occurred while the bull was on your farm.

Duty to mitigate loss

Breeders can carry out a bull breeding soundness evaluation, which will determine whether a bull is suitable for breeding and whether it might be infertile or sub-fertile. All pre-sale fertility tests should be carried out within 30 days of sale to indemnify the seller. If such a test has not been carried out by the seller, you could arrange to have the bull examined before you buy him and normally the seller is willing to share the costs of same. If the bull is too young to be fertility tested, you could insist on the seller indemnifying you through a certificate of insurance for infertility.