After hugely successful domestic NZB Standardbred yearling sales where nearly all key metrics reached record highs, the positivity continued in the breeding sector with news of a slight increase in the number of mares bred.
For only the third time in the past 15 years, the number of individual standardbred mares has increased.
The “increase” in the number of mares bred is gradual and probably best described as a stabilization in the number of breeding stock. 2005 individual mares were covered in 2020/21 to 2037 individual mares covered in 2021/22, an increase of 1.6% compared to last season.
This good result follows recent changes to the birth dates of standardbreds in this country as well as a revamped racing calendar.
This decision mirrored the changes made in Australia a year earlier where, interestingly, they had also achieved an increase in breeding numbers as a result of the change, with an increased number of mares bred from late December to early February.
“Now that the mare returns have arrived, Harness Racing New Zealand will be able to research using the ‘last date of breeding’ data to determine if there has been a real change in attitude towards breeders. who serve their mares later in the season,” said HRNZ Breeding Manager Brad Reid.
“It will be interesting to see. Early feedback from major stud farms has suggested they haven’t noticed much of a difference while boutique breeding farms have seen a change. Given the marginal increase in mare numbers projections, I doubt it’s dramatic, but it’s important that we look at the numbers in light of industry changes as we have just done,” he said.
While Reid would no doubt like to see the numbers increase further, he felt that even a small increase was an important sign of confidence for industry stakeholders as changes were incorporated into the racing schedule and other areas of the business.
“We have obviously undertaken some pretty significant changes to the racing schedule with a view to maximizing our current horse count and giving the horses in the age group every opportunity to fulfill their potential.
“Harness Racing New Zealand realizes that for any significant change in the number of farms there needs to be investment in breeding if we are to maintain our horse numbers and field sizes in the future. The challenge remains to know where that money will come from without impacting the stake money which we know is the main driver of breeding confidence and ultimately ownership,” a- he declared.
Recent research into the New Zealand breeding sector showed that 88% of breeders who bred a horse in the 2020/21 season had a horse registered at work with a New Zealand trainer at the start of the new racing season.
This figure has increased significantly over the past decade and provides a possible insight into possible future investments.
“Our recent survey shows that money wagered and racing opportunities are the two main factors driving breeding decisions, ahead of breeding incentives such as breeder bonuses, etc.
“While they are fine, I think with limited resources it would make sense to study what increased racing opportunities might look like for various groups of horses by getting some of our breeders of one or two mares to eventually breed another horse At present, there is not much incentive to breed a horse by an affordable stallion with limited opportunities to get a return by racing them.
“We need to have our races and our series ambitious and we can never stop breeders and owners from selling good horses. However, if we can conceptualize more opportunities for our horse population at the middle and lower end, I think that will encourage many breeders to persevere, as we know that is where the majority of our population is. of horses,” he said. .
Reid stressed that nothing is off the mark and that all possible avenues must be explored to stop the drain in horsepower numbers over the past decade.
The continued success of the New Zealand standardbred on the international stage has put further pressure on already reduced foal crops, with export figures indicating that demand for our local blood stock is higher than ever.
“Breeding is at the heart of Harness Racing New Zealand’s strategic direction. We recently set up a ‘Livestock Think Tank’ to explore areas of change and possible initiatives and incentives for the sector.
“The group will need to work closely with a related body like the NZ Standardbred Breeders, their affiliated branches as well as our business entities such as Studs, Main Breeders, NZB Standardbred, Sires Stakes and Small Breeders, which are the majority, to reinforce ongoing work to improve the overall livestock environment,” he said.
Colin Hair, chairman of the NZ Standardbred Breeders, welcomed the formation of the breeding focus group to look at measures to maintain and boost the number of bred horses.
“It is well known that we suffer from a shortage of manpower and any measure to improve the situation is welcomed by the farmers,” he said.
Harness Racing New Zealand chairman John Coulam and his board were pleased to see that breeding numbers had stabilized this season.
“The HRNZ Board is encouraged by the glimmer of hope reflected in these breeding figures and is committed to reviewing all aspects of its operation that will encourage further investment in breeding,” it said. -he declares.
One of the positive aspects of breeding this season is the increase in the number of mares being bred to New Zealand-domiciled stallions.
With the growing number of state-sponsored breeding initiatives across the divide, a concerning trend in recent years has been the number of New Zealand mares being served by state-domiciled stallions while stallions seek to take advantage of breeding programs supported by both industry and local government.
In addition to frozen semen, the impact on our horse numbers here is due to travel time and reduced semen motility, fewer mares ultimately foal, evidenced by our current crop of 3 years when only 67% of mares served gave marked/chipped foals.
The number of mares bred to ‘fresh semen’ New Zealand stallions increased in both gaits from 1163 to 1434.
The percentage of frozen semen used for our stimulation mares was at its lowest in almost a decade, at only 8% of the total number of mares served and the same with trotters who, at 22.5%, represented the most low use of frozen semen since 2013/14.
Boom’s sire Always B Miki was the top overall served stimulation bull having covered a pound of 223 mares in New Zealand (up from 201 the previous year) with Downbytheseaside hot on his hooves having covered 192 mares, a remarkable effort being given that the stallion nearly succumbed to colic shortly after arriving here.
Leading the trotting market with 105 mares covered, What The Hill will see its first two-year-old production released this season on our shores, closely followed by Creatine who, after not shuttling the previous year, capitalized on his first successes in both hemispheres to cover 92 mares.
For a full list of mares bred by each stallion, click here