NZ Standardbred Breeders' Association Chairman,and Executive Manager, travelled to Southland this week to hold a breeding forum for harness racing Southern members.
Over 25 breeders attended the meeting chaired by Southland Standardbred Breeders' representative.
Good robust discussion ensued and the meeting covered a wide range of topics. The yearling sales was high on the agenda, with many recognising positive aspects of the sales andfor their prompt payment to vendors, a major benefit. However there are some issues that breeders would like NZSBA to take up with PGGW. It was agreed that a national approach to communicating with the auctioneers should be developed rather than the fragmented regional system that is currently in place.
The 15-year decline in breeding numbers and breeders was covered by a presentation from John Mooney. Trends show that we have lost many smaller breeders while the Top 25 breeders are breeding the same total number of mares. Costs are a significant issue as is wastage of horses bred. While harness racing has increased the number of horses getting to the races about 50 percent do not make it. NZSBA will continue to work with HRNZ to analyse the available data so as to provide better information of the targeting of funding to particular races. Race programming and stakes were discussed including some of the anomalies in the southern programs. John mentioned some examples in the programming fillies races in the fortnight ahead of a $15,000 Nevele R Fillies Heat worth $15,000 which ended up as a $8,000 five horse non-tote event. The result: no future NRS fillies heats in Southland.
Given that breeders in NZ race over 50 percent of horses, and they like to see their horses race, the meeting discussed other changes that clubs could make that would see older horses racing in NZ and not sold to Australia. Several of those present asked if it was sensible for some of Southlands premier cups to be open to the Open class horses when a C4 to C8 or C9 condition may encourage more locals to retain racehorses for these events.
The HRNZ infohorse system was discussed, a superb research that horse owners and breeders should be utilising. NZSBA will look at how best to educated industry participants on how to use the infohorse database to its full advantage.
Prior to the forum Southland breeders raised with John issues about the quality of chilled semen and the low in foal rates for particular stallions. John was able to announce that NZSBA will seeking research funding to work with the studs to look at the viability of introducing an NZ standard for transported semen as well as random testing of semen delivered around the country. There are two issues concerning breeders. Firstly, in foal rates have not changed from around 71% in the last 20 years which is very poor compared to other livestock breeding. Secondly not being able to get a mare into foal after three cycles is extremely costly to a breeder in direct costs and the loss of not breeding a foal in that season.
NZSBA has prepared a draft research request which it will discuss with breeders and some of the studs. A research oversight committee will be established with breeder, stud and vet representation.
A number of action points were taken away from the meeting and will be developed over the coming months.
NZSBA Chairman John Mooney, commented on the forum
"This was an excellent meeting. It is very important that breeders as the front line investors in our sport and industry understand more and more about what drives the financial returns. It is not just about the yearling sales. Breeders have to be interested in how clubs are programming races to attract evenly rated horses that attracts punters; how stakes are distributed; and, how clubs are funded. I am often amazed how few industry participants realise that one of the main drivers of funding for HRNZ and clubs in the average field size at our meetings.
While animal health and husbandry are critical to breeding a sound horse of equal important is a sound business model for our code"
Similar forums will be held in Canterbury and North Island over the next few months. The NZSBA will hold its annual conference in Christchurch on Friday 16th May, more details to follow.
Kiely Buttell | Executive Manager