South Africa’s yearling sales, like everywhere else in the world, has suffered negative returns during the past the 18 months. Whilst much of the losses can be attributed to a tough economic climate, it’s hard to blame the situation solely on the economy.
The sales ring underlines the importance of breeding with commercially attractive stock. Invariably, many smaller breeders are unable to use the better class stallions, and so are forced to send their mares to a lower grade of stallion.
These breeders, almost inevitably, fail to sell their stock.South Africa produces, approximately, 3,500 thoroughbreds annually from over 500 registered breeders. Only a small percentage of these horses, usually fillies, are kept by their original owners, usually for stud purposes.
So what happens to the other 3,000 horses? The majority will be entered in various sales, where the more attractive prospects find new homes. But the horses that fail to sell are either re entered on a different sale, or euthanized.
In today’s market it is not feasible to enter a horse on a sale if they are sired by failed stallions. It is also a bad idea to offer horses whose dams have had no success on the track or at stud.
These horses need to be taken out of production to save the breeders money, and potential buyers time. Even in a good market, where people are flush, bad horses are never going to make money, but in a bad market these poorly bred animals cost everybody in the long run.
A good example of how costly nominating poor horses, i.e. with ordinary conformation and unfashionable pedigrees, to a sale can be seen in the results for the 2011 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale.
There is genuine concern amongst many of the country’s leading breeders around the ongoing production of poor quality horses.
Lammerskraal Stud’s Sally Jordan, had the following to say about the ongoing problems of overproduction.” I think one only has to take a good look at our catalogues to realise that we are producing too many “poorly bred” foals from mares that should not be breeding.
Unfortunately for various reasons, breeders continue to breed from these poor mares – until we hit tough times as we are experiencing now.
It is at these times that it becomes glaringly obvious to all of us, that keeping poor mares and raising foals from mares and stallions that are not up to standard, is a very expensive exercise. As harsh as it is, tough economic circumstances will now “cull” these mares.”
Klawervlei director, John Koster, echoes these sentiments. “I think there needs to be a correction regarding numbers. 2008 was one of the best years ever as a vendor of yearlings, so I think everyone was happy to cover as many mares as possible. The financial crisis was quick and sudden and it has caught most by surprise. It has taught us, once again, that there is no substitute for quality. The market has forced breeders to concentrate on this fact and it has created a huge correction in numbers of mares covered in 2010 and 2011.
A simple change in export protocol could change the fortunes of South African breeders and the South African thoroughbred massively. Should this happen sooner than later – we could find ourselves with a shortage of yearlings in the near future. The advent of the Cape Premier Yearling sale which has had such an excellent effect on the attitude of overseas racing folk, combined with the dynamic attitude of the sales team going forward will create buoyant sales and improve sales all round. Three years from now, when we will be selling the crop now being mated – the world financial crisis will hopefully be on an upward curve.”
Koster also has ideas for correcting the ongoing problem of overbreeding. He feels strongly that breeders in general need to take a more realistic approach when planning their matings, suggesting they need to mate their mares in line with their own credentials, and he also emphasizes the importance of putting a realistic reserve on horses going into the sales ring.
Whilst ongoing tough economic times have not assisted sales prices, many feel that overproduction of horses has played a part in the severe losses experienced in the sales ring over the past year.
The Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale’s aggregate dropped by 37% in 2011. At that sale, 11% of the yearlings on offer failed to find new homes.
The country’s National 2YO Sale saw a drop in aggregate of nearly 18%, and at the sale 16% of the horses on sale failed to make their reserves.While it would be hard to implement, a system of culling mares who fail to throw winners with their first five or six foals, by either euthanasia or retirement, would be an option which would prove beneficial to the industry in the long run.
A similar system should also be in place for failed sires. While a few farms retire their sires if they fail to make the grade, and some farms even geld these horses, the majority just move the horse to a different region.
This is invariably means that more breeders end up downgrading their broodmares by sending them to a proven failure. It’s extremely rare if a stallion with bad statistics suddenly becomes successful in a different market.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cost that overproduction of poor class stock has on the local market, needless to say, mass production of poor quality horses needs to cease in order for the South African breeding industry to flourish.
Article courtesy of Sarah Whitelaw.