I have seen very few, if any, articles written about international marketing and sales of Boer goats overseas. I have been blessed to sell quite a few goats in other countries over the past twenty years. I have learned many things about such endeavors over time. International marketing and sales is not for the weak hearted. It requires solution of difficult logistical problems rapidly on the fly as the goats leave the U.S. bound for other places.
Every country that accepts the importation of goats (goats and sheep are small ruminants) from the United States has a mutually agreed upon health protocol that the goats must meet before they can be shipped. Every country’s health protocol requirements are different and some are almost impossible to satisfy. In most cases the cost on an international health paper and the shipping costs of the animal(s) may exceed the actual cost of the animal initially. It is hard to sell a goat for $1000 when it costs $2,000 to get the health tests and acquire transportation.
Most of the health testing involves blood tests but some of the requirements may involve quarantining the animal for up to 90 days before it leaves the States. You may also be required to treat the animals for external parasites and other things prior to shipment. Tests other than blood tests might be for example, TB or tuberculosis, which is performed by giving a shot in the tail web and then observing the tail web for a lump a few days later. Many of the blood tests are only good for a short period of time, usually 30 days, which implies that the goat must leave the U.S. and arrive in the foreign country in 30 days or less from the time the blood sample was taken. The blood is usually taken from a large vein in the goat’s neck and is normally done by a vet.
Normally you will be involved in one form or another with the federal veterinarian in the foreign country. In some cases this is very difficult and time consuming as the health department and federal vet’s office in the other country may not be open when you can call them as many countries are six hours or more ahead of the U.S. In that case much or most of the communication with the federal veterinarian in the other country is done through email or fax. This is one of the situations that is not for the weak hearted.
You have to have a great deal of determination and patience and be willing to never give up. In most cases the goats will have to be quarantined at least 24 hours in a U.S. Department of Agricultural facility prior to their shipment and must be examined by a U.S. Federal veterinarian prior to shipment. Your local veterinarian can draw blood, send the blood for testing and complete the international health paper in most instances but many veterinarians are not willing to put up with the hassle and paperwork for the small fee that they might charge.
One of the most frustrating things about international health papers that I have had completed is that they have to be typed on an official form using a typewriter. When is the last time that you actually used a typewriter and could you find one in a short period of time? I asked one of the Federal vets in Austin a while back if we couldn’t fill out the forms on the computer as pdf files and send them over the internet. His response was, “We are looking into that possibility?” So along with everything else you may have to deal with out of date equipment and procedures. In my observation the government is not known for efficiency and clarity.
If you would like to check on the health protocol requirements for exporting goats to foreign countries you can access the website: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/vs/iregs/animals/.
You select the country you are interested in knowing about and look for “shipping small ruminants or sheep and goats”. If you check this website out you will realize that we cannot ship goats to a lot of places in the world including Europe. I get inquiries from several countries in Europe every month. In fact, exporting Boer goats to Mexico is not currently very easy unless you want to ship them as slaughter animals which may very well be slaughtered before they arrive at their intended destination. Shipping Boer goats to Canada is also pretty difficult as only bucks can be imported to Canada at this time with a voluntary scrapie ID. Shipping does cannot be accomplished without a complete scrapie history of your ranch and your participation in the scrapie free herd program for at least five years. I think this is about to change and bucks will come under the same requirements as does. If this requirement is adopted by Canada they will greatly limit the Boer genetics that can go to Canada as few U.S. Boer goat breeders are participating in the Five Year Scrapie Free Herd program. Check with the Department of Agriculture in Canada for the most up-to-date information on their import requirements for Boer goats.
Selling Boer goats to foreign countries usually involves many emails and phone calls prior to a sale. You may send a lot of photos of the goats under consideration. Normal payment for goats going internationally is by bank wire. It is customary to have the money in your bank prior to shipping the animals. A check written on a foreign bank is very difficult to cash or redeem if it turns out to be an “insufficient funds” check. If your goats are already in the other country your chance of getting your money is very remote.
International marketing and sales involves a lot of trust and integrity on the part of all parties concerned. I have found over time that advertising in foreign countries in their language and communicating in their language means more business for you. Thanks to “google translate” on the internet you can type almost anything you want in English and have it translated into many other languages instantly. You simply “cut and paste” this translated text into an email and Presto! You are communicating with your potential customer in their language. Of course you take their communication and put it through google translate to get the translation in English.
Another technique that I employ in international marketing and sales is studying the business and negotiating methods of other countries to try and make my potential customer more comfortable and relaxed. For example, most business done in Latin American countries takes considerable time. If you meet with these people in person it is an insult to them to immediately try to do business. You should spend some time with “small talk” about goats, family, and other things. They will let you know when it is “time to talk business.” You must be patient with folks from other cultures. You should also realize that in many cultures your first price quotation is the point where negotiation begins.
In Mexico, Brazil and Latin America they never accept your first price quotation. It is always, “Give me a better price.” Don’t be surprised if the final price is as much as two thirds less then the initial asking price. Of course there are pitfalls here because if you start with a price that is too high they will simply forget the deal. You have to find the price that they want to start negotiating from. Some study of the market prices of goats in the country where you are trying to do business prior to your negotiations with your potential customer will facilitate a successful deal.
If you have sold livestock or anything else for that matter for any period of time you know that the price you ask for your product is critical. You must find the right price. There is a price that represents value and that which customers will accept. If the price is too high you will get sales resistance and if the price is too low your customer will want to know what is wrong with the product.
Once you find the right price it is important that you give this same price to all of your customers. If you sell a product to one person at a given price and to another person at a much higher price eventually these two people may get together and talk about the prices they paid and believe me you will have a serious public relations problem.
In almost all cases when I have sold goats to other countries I have used the services of a freight forwarder and export company whose business it is to facilitate international shipments. That is their business and they are professionals. Two of the companies that I have used are American Genetics International owned by Lou Rocha and Agworld owned by Bruce Cluver. If you want to have a lot of gray hair at an early age try to ship animals without the help of a freight forwarder and export company. In almost all cases where I have shipped goats to other countries there is some sort of problem and hang up that occurs along the way. Your freight forwarder or export company knows all the right people in various places and can make solution of these potentially shipment wrecking problems much easier than would otherwise be the case.
In fact, my St. Croix sheep herd came from a shipment that was going from Chicago to the Philippines. The shipment encountered problems in Chicago and the sheep ended up in the hands of the freight forwarder. The freight forwarder called me and asked me if I wanted to trade Boer goats for St. Croix sheep. I did not know that St. Croix sheep are a white hair sheep that have become very desirable over time. I agreed to trade goats for the sheep and from this original herd of 13 animals I grew a herd of St. Croix sheep to over 300 head (which were sold to a rancher in Mexico several years ago).
Don’t take the word of your customer that he knows “all of the ropes” in his country. In one case that I know of (not goats that I sold) when the goats arrived in the destination country they were put on a boat and dumped at sea because the customer “did not know all the right people”. If this sounds like a fairy tale you must remember that politics are everywhere and some folks are more “politically connected” than others. What I am trying to say is always use the services of a freight forwarder and export company. It may cost a little more but in most cases the animals arrive where they are supposed to. Usually you can include the cost of the freight forwarder and export company in the sales price of your goats. In some instances you may want to split this cost with your customer.
As I said in the beginning international sales and marketing are not for the weak hearted. If you have a strong heart and a lot of determination you may discover that shipping goats around the world opens up boundless opportunities and provides a richer life. Good luck in this arena!
I want to conclude this article with a personal experience.
How we live our lives day to day depends on a lot of things that happen around us. I have heard it said that we are a product of our environment and this may be true. The way we conduct our business whether it is selling goats, teaching people or any other endeavor is dependent upon what we truly value in our lives.
The other day I received an email from a man in another country. He wanted to purchase straws of semen and have them flown to his country. This would have been a substantial deal and the value of the potential sale was significant (close to fifty thousand dollars). All I had to do was make a telephone call to the place where I have the straws stored and give them an address of where to send the shipment. They would take care of the rest.
The man ordering the straws told me that I could send the straws to his “agent” in Florida and that his agent would do the rest of the work getting the straws into his country. The man ordering the straws would wire the money to my bank prior to my sending the straws to his agent. This was really an easy deal to do but there was one problem. The country where the man lived does not allow importation of some agricultural products including goat semen from the United States.
In other words, this deal involved smuggling which is illegal. Although my part on the deal would be carried out entirely in the United States the final transport of the straws from the U.S. to this foreign country would involve smuggling and I would have been a party to this crime. All I had to do was take the money and make a phone call. It was all very easy (as many illegal things are – robbing banks and not getting caught would be a very profitable business if you didn’t get caught and you wouldn’t have to pay taxes to boot.)
I thought about the deal for a few minutes (if you aren’t tempted at least a little bit you are not human) but decided pretty quickly that this was not the proper thing to do. My business is worth far more than a few thousand dollars of easy money. If I had chosen to send the straws I might eventually receive a call from the USDA or other governmental office and my business would have been ruined not to mention that I might be in jail for a very long time.
I wrote an email back to the man in the foreign country thanking him for the order but declining to send the straws. I tried to leave him with a positive note in that I told him if the border ever opened with the United States he would be the first one on the list to receive straws. Did I do the “right” thing? YOU BET I DID!