A Co Galway farmer was today awarded nearly €16,000 in damages when a court ruled he had been sold an infertile bull.
Judge Karen Fergus said that on the balance of probability the pedigree Limousin, Finboy Gino, was not fit for purpose when Co Offaly bull breeder Tom Harney sold him to Mountbellew suckler farmer Micheal Ryan nearly six years ago.
Tullamore Circuit Civil Court heard last week that Mr Ryan bought the bull from Mr Harney, a Moneygall-based farmer, breeder and schoolteacher, on June 6, 2013 after seeing an advertisement on Donedeal.
He paid €2,750 for the animal, minus €50 “luck money”, on the understanding he was capable of breeding and brought him to his farm at Waterloo, Menlough where he had 22 cows.
When he had the herd scanned the following November none of the cows were in calf and a fertility tester, John McCabe, took semen samples on January 11, 2014 and concluded the bull was unsuitable for breeding.
Mr Ryan’s vet, Tom Glynn, gave evidence that while he had not examined the animal, a bull’s fertility should return even if it was lost for a period of time because of an infection, a high temperature or an injury.
The court also heard the bull had been put on the market by Mr Harney at a Limousin sale in Roscrea Mart in May 2013 but was withdrawn when it did not reach its €3,000 reserve.
It had been examined by Mr Harney’s vet, Eamon O’Connell, at the mart, but its fertility was not tested because a test wasn’t mandatory.
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The court heard Finboy Gino had previously sired two calves. One of them died and a DNA test conducted by Wetherbys proved the bull was the sire of the other, born in November 2013.
Mr O’Connell again examined the bull at Mr Ryan’s farm on March 8, 2014 and a fertility test on that occasion showed his semen to be satisfactory, a finding which surprised Mr McCabe.
In a report dated September 2, 2016, Mr O’Connell said Finboy Gino would not be able to mate with cows because an injured and inflamed prepuce would prevent him from exteriorising his penis.
Judge Fergus noted that the bull had been sent for slaughter on February 1, 2016 and said when Mr McCabe and Mr Glynn were shown photos of the animal’s penis they did not agree with Mr O’Connell that Finboy Gino had an injury.
Judge Fergus said evidence regarding an injury and advice from Mr O’Connell that a second opinion be sought was flatly denied by both Mr Ryan and his daughter who both remembered him shaking his head and saying “no good” when he examined the bull’s semen on the farm.
The judge said she was satisified there was a problem with the bull from the time he arrived on the plaintiff’s farm and the fact that he had previously put a cow in calf was not proof he was fertile at the time of sale.
She said Mr Ryan’s evidence was that the bull was working normally and mounting cows from the outset but none of them became pregnant during 2013.
She said she preferred the evidence of Mr Ryan’s experts and found that Mr Harney sold a bull which was not fit for purpose and was, on the balance of probability, infertile.
She awarded the Co Galway farmer the full amount claimed, €15,826.97, a sum comprising the value of the bull after slaughter and the value of 20 calves which had not been born, assuming a 10 per cent failure rate in the herd of 22 cows.
She also awarded costs to Mr Ryan and refused a request to put a stay on the order in the event of an appeal.
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