Posts Tagged ‘breeding consultants’

The two Australian companies in my previous blog are specialised pedigree consultants. That’s their primary focus, although they acknowledge the breeding needs to take other things into account.

Breeding consultants, on the other hand, should advise on good matches in a wider sense – compatible types, family strengths and weaknesses, even qualities the market is looking for or what will build future value (broodmare prospects if the foal is a filly).

They should be upfront about any particular breeding or pedigree theory they prefer. Their strength is in their ability to research and understand your mare and her family in detail and to have done the same with a wide range of the sires available to New Zealand breeders.

There are not many independent pedigree or breeding consultants in New Zealand who specialise in standardbreds. In fact Frank Marrion, well known to us as a prolific writer on breeding, may be the only one currently.

The studs have Tesio-based advice and some good insights on their stallions which are useful but don’t fit what I’m referring to here as independent advice.

Frank advertised his consultancy services a few years ago and has since been kept very busy by the response and is now having to cut back this line of work. While this is a pity, it certainly shows that there is a market for someone who is respected for their knowledge and independence. His clients have included some big names in breeding as well as many newcomers wanting a good steer.

Frank doesn’t pull his punches. “I don’t support paper pedigree matching or the search for ‘magic bullets’, as I don’t believe they exist other than the possible benefits of doubling up to superior mares in the right places. Rather I recommend breeding for type, or being familiar with the traits of sire and dam for compatibility and breeding to their respective strengths or away from their weaknesses, and then shortlisting complimentary outcross blood in the sires. The breeder’s budget and plan for the foal also comes into making sire suggestions. But just paper matching, I think that can do a lot of harm and waste of a lot of other people’s money, if the consultant doesn’t care about the individuals in question,” he says.

“Most breeders like to do their own thing, for better or for worse, but there are also a lot who are genuinely in need of some help (particularly relative newcomers to the game) and are really appreciative of an overview of a situation. These are also the people that are most likely to fall prey to consultants!” he adds.

Frank Marrion says budgets and whether the plan is to race or to sell are other important considerations.

“I find Tesio useful for certain things, but I’ve learned that focusing on the mare type and sire type is far more critical. Once I’ve ascertained suitable sire types for the mare, I will use Tesio to come up with an order of preference based on compatible outcrosses – although that sort of thing is pretty much in my head – and supply the Tesio test matings to accompany the reports and recommendations to my clients. I don’t make any promises or guarantees other than I hope to assist people to avoid mistakes,” he says.

Looking at examples of client reports prepared by Frank Marrion, I can see his hallmark thoroughness and almost obsessive attention to detail. As a breeder, I like the insights they would give me into my mare and the clear rationale behind each recommended sire. I would miss the potential X factor, but I can always add that ingredient if I want, or use my own understanding about how to find it.

Frank Marrion’s charges for reports varied, about $300 depending on the time and work involved. If he had already done some work on the family previously it would be at the lower end, maybe $100. ‘Bulk lots’ would see a lower unit price or a negotiated flat fee.

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We can become familiar with the most common breeding theories, and use free Tesio pedigree charts on the studs’ websites to look at a future foal’s family tree.

But how many of us feel confident that we understand the significance of what we are reading?

A Tesio chart is like getting a contour map of 50 hectares. It might identify some key features and the slopes, but it doesn’t tell you the climate or soil type or what has been proven grow most successfully on similar blocks of land across the country, or where potential springs of Contour mapwater might be hiding.

It gives you useful data, it identifies double ups, and it points you towards some classic mares. Is that enough?

So there are some good reasons to get advice from a breeding or pedigree consultant, or others who can shed light on the basic contour map of a pedigree chart:
• to save you the time it takes to do extensive research
• to access information not easily available to you
• to identify successful patterns
• to spot small but significant ingredients
• to get advice that is outside immediate fashions and opinions. 

I don’t take anything as ‘gospel’ – but it all adds to my knowledge and ability to hopefully breed more successfully. And it’s certainly more interesting that putting on a blindfold and sticking a tale on the donkey!

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