Lee Pitts: Mistaken Indemnity
January 25, 2016
I'm a big believer in insurance. It is my opinion that the best policy to have in life is that you can never have too much insurance. In fact, I have so much life insurance my wife thinks we should see how really good it is.
I would buy insurance on the bulls I buy, but they are considered "high risk" by the insurance industry just because I buy them out of the slaughter run at the sale barn. If I ever did buy a high dollar bull I assure you that I would insure him because it's a well known fact in the livestock mortality industry that the chances are two to one that a high selling bull at a sale will either die of a mysterious disease or break his leg within forty eight hours after the policy goes into effect. The most dreaded words to a livestock insurance agent are…."You'll never guess what happened to my bull."
There was one bull sale in the far west where the high selling bull for four years in a row did not live to see its third birthday, and some of them died pretty gruesome deaths. To say the least, it kinda put a damper on the sale average.
As another example of why you should buy livestock mortality insurance I offer this tragic, but true, tale. It seems that this Hereford breeder went to the stock show in Denver for the same reason that thousands of other astute breeders make the pilgrimage every year… to party and have a good time. Just kidding. (But not really.) While he was at the National Western he also purchased a herd sire at the Denver Hereford sale. If you know anything about this prestigious event you know that the great bulls there sell in a trading range from pricey to exorbitant. This particular bull was no exception.
The bull was delivered in excellent condition and the proud owner was there to greet his new herd sire as he walked off the truck. There were several pens next to the barn and the Hereford breeder placed the bull in the #2 pen before heading back to town where he lived. The last thing he did that night was to give instructions to the local butcher who was coming out the next day to slaughter a steer they had been fattening for the freezer. The butcher was given specific instructions that the steer was a Hereford with horns and that he was in pen number one, the pen closest to the road.
Unfortunately for all involved, the steer and the bull got to fighting, knocked some boards off the fence and switched places during the night. At this point, if you've been paying attention, I assume you know what happened next. That's right, the next morning when the butcher arrived it was the new herd sire that was in the first pen nearest the road with his horned Hereford head looking over the fence. The butcher, not wasting any time, dropped the beast with one shot, hung him up and went back to town to cut and wrap him. Later in the day he called the Hereford breeder to inform him that the job had been completed. The butcher said in a good-natured way, "Say, you didn't do a very good job castrating that steer of yours. He still had a couple mountain oysters left in him. Do you want me to wrap them up for you?"
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I am told the Hereford breeder set a new land speed record out to his ranch to confirm his worst nightmare. Sure enough, the fat steer was still very much alive in the second pen and there was not a trace of the new herd sire.
I suppose an argument can be made that it wasn't the butcher's fault for not knowing the difference between a great breeding bull and an ordinary steer, but the fact that he didn't carry malpractice insurance made the case of mistaken indemnity even worse.
I'll admit the story may be a little hard to swallow if you are an insurance adjuster but just think of the bad taste it left in the Hereford breeder's mouth every time he ate a steak from his new herd sire.
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