Posts Tagged ‘breeders conference’

I don’t have the access to databases or time to develop detailed scenarios, I’m just trying to make a contribution in evenings and weekends after my day job and helping look after my horses like all of us. So what I can paint is a picture of an option or two that might be worth following up. It’s not perfect but I am trying to stimulate debate and open up ideas for discussion.

I’m keen to look at positive futures for breeders. I’m putting my hand up for that. Are you?

Come on, we need to get some momentum to support our NZ Standardbred Association by coming up with really interesting ideas for them to take forward, and taking a real interest in what they are doing.

See you on Sunday at the forum at Alexandra Park = yes!! (Although I can find no reference on the NZSBA website to this forum or the agenda – frustrating as I would love to link to the details but what I’ve got by email I’m sharing at the end of this blog – I am sure you could turn up if not a member already but wanting to join.)

Horse breeder rewards

How can we reward standardbred breeders fairly? Over time, and on performance.

Option 1

This idea is a Breeders Credits Reward system along the lines of many commercial schemes operating at the moment outside our own industry which try to attract loyalty. For me, as a customer, one of the best is the Westpac Hot Points programme, but for others it might be a retail loyalty card, or perhaps Air NZ Airpoints. The wider principle is the same, it allows you to build up credits against your expenditure and cash them in for a range of products and services from a variety of suppliers.

The obvious difference is that our harness breeders scheme would be based on credits accumulated through earnings – wins and or placings for each horse bred (and nominated for the scheme) by a breeder. Whether that is on numbers of wins or stakes earned, I’m not sure, but my gut feeling in terms of industry development and growing new breeders/runners is to reward on number of wins (and perhaps placings although that dilutes the reward) rather the rewards based on stakes earnings. Why? Because a tiny number of big stakes races often add huge earnings to so few race horses, and therefore the breeders are not recognised for their role in providing good winners in the daily racing across the board. That’s what keeps the industry going. Spread the rewards, grow the pool!

This sort of breeders scheme is going to need some financial input from breeders to set up the pool. So I suggest an entry payment  of some sort (but what should be debated e.g. is whether that is annually renewing fee or one off, and whether it is per horse, per mare, annual or all up etc.) The Breeders Crown system has set some good precedents. But the main thing is to keep it easy for breeders to get into, not a high cost/high risk subsidising payment for someone else who will get the rewards downstream.

The advantage of this type of system is that is that it can leverage off a wide range of sponsors for “vouchers” which the credits can buy, and that will open up some good sponsorship deals. For example, your NZ Harness Racing Breeders Credits might help pay for a service fee you otherwise couldn’t afford; or you could spend it at a feed store on a particular type of feed sacks; or with an equine dentist for so many hours of work; or an equine shop; or equine transport credits etc. So it does give opportunities for deals to be struck with industry participants – and that might even be the TAB offering cash conversion to your TAB account. But whatever, it is a reward that goes back to the breeder and empowers them to use it is the way the suits their circumstances. That’s the real advantage of this option!

Another real advantage is that credits could be transferable to another owner if the breeder made that choice. Harder to administer, but it might provide a good selling point for mares and progeny if they are paid up and have got credits in the bank.

A key would be that credits would not be able to be “cashed up”.

Next time I cover off Option 2.

– Bee

North Island Breeders’ Forum

Sunday 8th March – Alexandra ParkNZSBA in association with the North Island Breeders’ are pleased to confirm that the North Island Breeders’ Forum will be taking place on
Sunday 8th March at Alexandra Park,  9am – 1pm.
We have received a good response from breeders and have an interesting timetable – with plenty of time for you to have your say. If you haven’t registered already, please reply to this email and confirm your attendance. Forum Timetable9am                   Morning Tea/Mix and Mingle
9.30am              John Mooney to open and presentation by NZSBA;
10am                 Dominique Dowding and Kevin Smith, Alexandra Park;
10.30am            Edward Rennell, Harness Racing New Zealand;
11am                 Workshop – focused on solutions for industry issues and new ideas;
11.30am            Breeding/Industry panel to answer your questions.If you have any comments/questions that you would like to raise anonymously, please feel free to complete this form and we will ask the question on your behalf. If you are not going to attend the meeting and would like specific feedback on your question, please fill in your contact details.This will be a great opportunity for breeders to voice their opinions and collaborate for the betterment of the industry.

Kind regards


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We talk about breeder’s bonuses or options to give more back to breeders, but there is no structure to the discussion.

We’ve had an online survey (toe in the water) and brief moments at forums, but I don’t see a real effort to engage with breeders in an open discussion on some of the options that are being used world-wide or might be local programmes that work here.

Foal reflecting

Reflecting on breeders’ rewards and recognition options

When I go up to Auckland this Sunday for the Breeders Forum, I hope we get some specific feedback into what our representatives are aiming for and what the alternatives might be for our consideration. One-off achievements with specific clubs or sponsors are brilliant, but they don’t give a cohesive response to the NZ breeder’s problem.

We need an industry-wide solution.

I want some options that build on what we know (globally), that asks questions, and provides robust opportunities to discuss answers.

So to put some ideas into the circle….

Here’s my thoughts, following on from the last few blogs I posted on this topic:

The principles need to be:

  • There needs to be some effort to look into the actual costs (variable between locations) of breeding and raising a horse, so we all have a sense of range of costs that a “raw material” producer could expect to outlay in this industry. Hidden costs are just submerging this issue in a sort of invisible breeder’s donation/hobby account. For example, gaining younger newcomers to the industry may be increasingly dependent on them having access to land, which is a huge ask in today’s real estate market. Their scenario is quite different from the older farmer with 500 acres and a hobby interest.
  • Any reward must be based on outcome (performance) to avoid skewing the breeding market to a poor quality product just to increase foals on the ground.
  • Programmes that have addressed a similar need for other players in the industry can often be a good, affordable, sustainable and fair “role model” if they work well.
  • Those who benefit need to make a contribution e.g buy in to a programme; but also need to see how that benefits them.
  • The return to breeders needs to be meaningful but viewed as a bonus rather than compensation of costs.
  • We need to associate this with an accurate database of breeders, and thanks to HRNZ’s incredible system that should not be a major issue, but it does need to be workable and also within a system such as the Sires Stakes administration unit which can provide the formalising of a scheme.
  • There are commercial incentive and reward options outside our industry which might also be worth looking at as a template, including the successful “Westpac Hot Points” scheme based on gaining expenditure credits, but this could be modified to performance credits.
  • Any rewards/recognition programme needs to have the ability to “tweak” to give signals to breeders about favoured long term directions. I don’t mean short-term things like “Breed to this sire this year and get more bonuses” but rather helping to offset trends away from breeding fillies, or encouraging a wider spread of sires. Yes, that is controversial because people like to say that the market takes care of those things. But the “market” doesn’t exist in any pure sense and certainly not with any long term development bias (compared to short term financial gain). So let’s get real.
  • If possible, given the Australasian market we have, it needs to work around the fact that many New Zealand horses bred perform in Australia not here, and these are some of the breeders who are currently losing out on the success of the horse.
  • Finally the scheme needs to be inclusive (but voluntary to avoid any of the issues we have had previously with imposed schemes). So no-one is excluded, and it is not just an additional bonus for those who already succeed at the top end. For this reason I favour a system based on number of wins (for example) rather than stake-money earned by a horse.

OK, those are my principles.

You can probably see the direction I am going in, but I will explain a bit more next time.


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I’ve just returned from the NZ Standardbred Breeders Conference in Christchurch on Friday 17 May. I applaud the organisers for gathering a great line up to get us thinking, and tip o’ the hat to Michael Guerin – his Q&A sessions with Karen Parsons and Cran Dalgety were a highlight, and his summing up at the end of the conference was a call to action that would have set the conference alight if it had come at lunchtime.

My only quibble with an otherwise very good conference:  poor timing at the start meant the workshop/discussion session at the end was truncated and lacking focus. It was an ideal opportunity for John Mooney et al to get some support and direction from active and interested breeders through real workshopping of ideas. Having that number of well informed breeders from different parts of the country in the same room is rare. It creates an exchange of ideas that surveys and submissions can never achieve.

Perhaps a raft of workshops on specific ideas arising from the conference (and elsewhere) could be held around the country over the next 6 months to put some flesh on the bones and give some life to Mick Guerin’s apt comment that the breeding industry must settle on its priorities and get much more coordinated and clever about its tactics to push those into the wider harness racing (or general racing) agenda.

A quick note on two of the presentations:

Dr Jenny Cahill spoke on the importance of genetics. Her recap on the basic principle of “pairs” was an apt salute to the equal importance of sire and mare. It takes two to tango, right down to the chromosone level! She also placed a realistic perspective on the contribution of genetic making up to a performance horse, noting that complex inherited traits ( e.g. some performance measures, height, temperament, and a number of diseases) are affected by a number of genes and usually also modified by environmental factors (such as training and nutrition).

As equine genetic research moves into the field of complex traits, Dr Cahill said breeders need to feed into research programmes what they are most interested in finding out. For example, the dairy and beef industries are further down that path and have clear objectives of what research can help them produce better products for a changing market.

For some equine breeders, genetic research will be a step too far to contemplate, but it is going to happen. We must embrace and direct it, or we are just burying our heads in the sand. Dr Cahill says “the ultimate goal of this research is to be able to use the information gained for the good of the horse, owners, breeders and trainers and to be able to screen individual horses for these traits.”  This would include testing for heritable conformation faults and diseases, and also good gaitedness and even the type of performance they are “wired” to achieve (speedy sprint, medium distance fast, stamina/slow).

All this has HUGE implications for breeders, buyers and sellers. Some thoroughbred markets are already using available information. How would we use it? What impact would it have on numbers bred and sold if we cut out all those horses in advance who will only make up the numbers in a race? How would it change our yearling sales, if overnight buyer-requested testing became available? Fascinating stuff to ponder!

Dr Clarissa Brown Douglas, speaking on nutrition of the mare and foal, gave a wealth of useful information, emphasising the importance of feeding correctly in those critical formative times. Her take-out messages were simple: Managing growth is a balancing act. The last trimester is a vital time to ensure the foal gets the minerals, trace elements and vitamins required. Get to know the nutritional value of what you are using – pasture and hay as well as commercial feeds and balancers.

Some of the facts that stood out for me:

  1. Mares milk lacks minerals so in that vital last trimester, the foal stores the minerals it needs in its liver for use during the first 90 days of its life.
  2. A foal is born with only 17% of mature bone mineral content, and maximum bone mineral content is not achieved until a horse is about 5 years old.
  3. The 6-12 month period of feeding a weanling is a “window of opportunity” and you need to monitor growth rate so you don’t overload the immature skeleton structure.
  4. Yearling preparation is best done gradually over 90 days.
  5. Be aware of the potential for high glucose/insulin response in young horses – low glycemic feeds are a good way to prevent this.

So it really makes you think about the pressure we put on such an undeveloped creature when we race horses as 2yos! And if we continue to do that, it places a big responsibility on breeders to lay the best foundation possible.

I am sure NZSBA will be publishing the papers presented by all speakers at the conference on their website. It’s great food for thought.

The industry analysis (both harness racing in general by Edward Renall, and breeding industry by John Mooney) provides some good basis for discussion.

But as Mick Guerin said, we need to pin down and agree on our priorities, and push our agenda forward in a united way. We will get nowhere by griping and sniping, riding the ocean like flotsam and jetsam, carried on currents that seem out of our control.

I grabbed a chance right at the end to raise my idea of increasing the breeding option to one foal and one ET per mare per season, outlined in other blogs. I got a strong positive response from several breeders to this suggestion – including a commitment from John Mooney to start following it up.

Likewise Brian West raised the need to get a monetary return into breeders’ hands via a % slice of stakes, as they do in France where breeders are recognised as the key investors in the industry’s product.

These ideas are not as “out of the box” as we might think. As I said, a series of workshops or think tanks around the country could pull together some recommendations.

Let’s get some fresh voices and fresh ideas in the mix.

Great conference, exciting times!

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