When you hear the word dispersal, what's the first feeling that comes to mind?
Once upon a time receiving a sale catalogue in the mail with the word dispersal printed across the top would evoke feelings of sadness at the thought of a historical breeding program coming to an end.
You'd want to know what had led to this decision, usually ill health, a change in business direction or financial necessity, and be interested to find out what was next for the longstanding stud principals.
A quick Google search of the definition of the word dispersal will tell you it's the action or process of distributing things, the sale of an entire group of animals, embryos, semen or DNA in an expeditious manner.
That definition has never changed but the use of word certainly has. Arguably it's become an overused and incorrect phrase within the industry in recent years.
"Final offering" or "last chance" are just two of the marketing methods that are associated with a dispersal.
But when you hear that vendors behind dispersal sales are "holding on to a couple of cows", it makes you wonder if they were simply capitalising off the finality of such an occasion?
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that buyers at a dispersal sale usually arrive with fuller pockets and are willing to pay above market value for the chance to secure genetics that won't be available ever again.
It's their chance to invest in limited bloodlines and make them exclusive to their herd.
Understandably it wouldn't be easy to bid farewell to years of genetics especially when some have spanned decades and generations, but cashed up buyers could naturally feel a level of distrust.
How would you feel if you paid a premium for the last Australian-made Holden car, only to find out a short time after they were back on the market?
The decision to label a sale a dispersal ultimately comes down to each breed society.
The differentiation is usually made within their regulations and while they can vary, all agree these sales must be advertised in an unambiguous way.
Generally speaking a dispersal sale means no genetic material can be registered to the original prefix and herd identification symbol for a number of years after, sometimes up to 10 years.
Some stipulate that any animals not sold during the dispersal sale must be transferred within 90 days of the sale or risk becoming inactive.
Others allow any vendors to amend their intention to disperse at least two weeks prior to the date of the sale with a verbal and written public announcement while some offer members in unforeseen circumstances the chance to apply for special consideration to continue their herd.
Interestingly the country's biggest breed society, Angus Australia, states in its regulations that it bears no responsibility for claims made by members in relation to "dispersal sales' or 'partial dispersal sales".
There is nothing stopping breeders from selling part of their herd; it's called a reduction sale and gives a member the potential to retain genetic material for future registration under the original prefix and tattoo.
But how often do you see that written on a catalogue?
Having looked through the regulations of a range of breed societies it's clear to see that the differing rules around this topic suggest it's been difficult to pin down the best approach.
Regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller, when anybody in the industry hears the word dispersal the first feeling they get shouldn't be doubt.
Dispersals are the industry's means to succession planning, a way to continue to develop the genetics fostered in this country.
Let's remember to sustain their true purpose.