WHEN Roma beef producers John and Judie Sorensen purchased a line of Hereford heifers on AuctionsPlus deemed 'not station mated' in June this year, they had no reason to doubt the integrity of the joining status.
But two months after taking delivery of the heifers, the Sorensens were dismayed to discover that 53 of the 93 heifers (57pc) were four-and-a-half to eight months pregnant.
The Sorensens say many of the heifers are undersized for pregnancy and have been told by their vet, Will Nason, Roma Vet Clinic, that many could die calving or have to be assisted.
The Sorensens believe their experience raises some serious questions about the integrity of AuctionsPlus assessments.
"To have such a large number pregnant really leads you to the conclusion that, at some point, these heifers have been station mated, which was clearly not the joining status provided on the assessment," Mrs Sorensen said.
"Our vet found that they were PTIC from four-and-a-half to eight months, so they would have had bulls with them for at least three-and-a-half months prior to assessment.
"They were also described in the assessment as being 12 to 15 months old, but we also don't believe that to be correct, as on mouthing the heifers, found 32 to have two permanent teeth.
"The assessment also described them to be 100 percent dehorned, but 36 of the mob needed complete dehorning or re-dehorning when they arrived."
The heifers were assessed by Dubbo-based Level A1 assessor, Tony White, Gateway Livestock Pty Ltd, on June 13, 2012, and sold by the vendor, the Bjorksten family, on AuctionsPlus, on June 29, 2012.
The Sorensen family paid $560/head for the EU-accredited heifers, which were delivered on July 13, 2012.
Under the operating conditions of AuctionsPlus, the purchaser has 24 hours from the time of delivery to make a written complaint to the selling agent if the animals are not as described.
The Sorensens said they did not make a written complaint because despite being "disappointed" with a few aspects, they believed the cattle would be "as per the description".
"We weren't overly worried about having to dehorn the heifers, and although some looked as though they could be pregnant, we just trusted they had not been station mated as stated, and certainly never expected that more than 50pc would be pregnant."
AuctionsPlus general manager Gary Dick said the AuctionsPlus operating conditions were clear when it came to disputes about livestock.
Mr Dick said he had recently tried to negotiate with the Sorensens' agent, Cyril Close, and the Bjorksten family, but said a claim put forward by Mr Close was not reasonable.
"There is protection there for purchasers and vendors," he said.
"We have that 24-hour period, which also allows for weekends, for buyers to notify in writing of the problem, and then if the selling agent and the purchaser can't come to a satisfactory conclusion, then AuctionsPlus can assist.
"We have an arbitration process that we go through to solve these sorts of issues."
The Sorensens say they feel let down by AuctionsPlus, the assessor and the vendor.
"We would just like to warn people who use AuctionsPlus to be very mindful that this can happen," Mrs Sorensen said.
"We have used AuctionsPlus to buy cattle before and the cattle were as described.
"We liked using the system to buy females because we felt we could trust that the cattle would have excellent descriptions and breeding details, which you can't always get if you are buying out of the saleyards.
"Now that we find that the cattle are not as said in the assessment, and we are being told 'too bad'."
Roma-based livestock agent Cyril Close has been assisting the Sorensen family and said it was a disappointing case.
"Buyers use AuctionsPlus because they believe they can trust the information in the assessments and it would be a shame to see that compromised," he said.
Queensland Country Life sought comment from the selling agent, Tony White, who declined to comment.
QCL also sought comment from the vendor, Daryl Bjorksten, who had not responded to the request at the time of printing.