Do we need to keep stallions around any longer than necessary???
Got into an "interesting" and no doubt contentious conversation with a breeding friend of mine last week. He resides "over the pond" and is involved with WB breeding.
He asked me why we even need to keep stallions around any longer, with the high cost of hay, the higher costs each year to maintain them, the troubled economy on a global basis, the lack of good reliable help to help in breeding operations and the ever increasing cost and lack of availability of land to maintain our horses on.
The question he asked to me was:
"If a stallion has a credible performance career that is now over, has established himself already as a good competitor with solid reputable bloodlines and has foals on the ground already that are competing or close to doing so, you have good video and/or pictures of said stallion competing, standing, being ridden, at liberty - the whole gamut, then why do you need to actually KEEP the stallion himself around? Why not collect a bunch of semen and then freeze it to satisfy the demand for XX years into the future? It certainly hasnt hurt the breeding careers of stallions like Voltaire, Rio Grande, Argentinus, etc. No one cares if they are dead or alive - they still buy their semen if that stallion would suit their mare. So again I ask - why does the stallion need to be alive standing in your stall, costing money and time each month to maintain, if his semen sells just as well if he is dead or alive?"
Hmmm ... a question that really doesnt have one (or any!)answer for sure. I reminded him that I rely a great deal on Live Cover breedings to my stallion so that would throw out most/all of the TB stallions that are standing. And from moral, emotional and ethical grounds I know a lot of Stallion Owners would have a lot of trouble with this concept. Me included ...
He said that there were "rumblings" about certain stallions that had died that didnt REALLY die from colic, or "natural causes" as stated - their owners were simply making a "Business Decision" in regards to them and future revenues from them and costs associated with keeping them
Morally and ethically - I have a real problem with this. Is this REALLY what we can expect in the future as costs rise and breeding revenues and interest stay the same or decline and the profitability of keeping and standing (live) stallion(s) gets worse and worse each year?
Mare Owners - does it matter to you one single bit if you like a certain stallion and he is no longer with us and there is plenty of good quality frozen available?
Im sure that there will be some really interesting and thought provoking comments made on both sides of this equation ...
What exactly is this guy saying? Freeze as much semen as you can and when the stallion is no longer competing or when he gets really old then have him put down under some other pretext? If that is in fact what that guy is saying, then he should get a taste of his own medicine when he gets old. lol.
I own a mare and if I were to breed her, I'd want to breed her to a stallion that best complemented her characteristics for whatever my goal was be it dressage, eventing, or something else. It wouldn't necessarily matter whether the stallion was still living (doing live cover or fresh) or no longer with us and only available via frozen. I would take ethics into account though. If there was any inkling of funny business going on, I'd run for the hills.
I think it entirely depends on if an owner sees a horse as Meat On The Hook or something more.
I have no doubt that there are some people like this, but I choose to believe that the vast majority of horse owners see their horses as something more than that and keep their horses into retirement be they breeding stock, riding stock or anything in between.
And I don't use frozen, so all you stallion owners out there dying for me to breed my mares to your boys, you better keep them alive and well!!! lol
I think when it comes down to that then the love of horses is gone. It is purely financial and is a sad world for the horse. I would not support that if I knew that was the agenda. I love hearing of 30+year old stallions still around! I think it shows good care and the horse is still enjoying life.
"I love hearing of 30+year old stallions still around! I think it shows good care and the horse is still enjoying life. "
I went to the KY horse park a number of years ago and got to see Cigar and John Henry along with a few other famous stallions. Even the ones who were getting on in years still looked absolutely fabulous. It's a testament to their athletic ability and good care that they could look so good at such an age.
I have heard of stallions being gelded after they are done breeding both for management and their own psyches. The story of Ferdinand's end in Japan is a very sad one - http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-raci...-for-ferdinand . I think the horses who have served us well deserve a pleasant end.
As TC noted that eliminates the TB stallions off the bat. It is not the wrong solution for some stallion owners that cannot house a stallion. It is more trouble, and quality of life wise it can be hard on the stallion. Not all farms by a long shot can offer a stallion a non isolated way of life. For some SOs freezing a lot of semen and gelding the horse can indeed make the quality of life better for all involved.Gelding, not euthanizing. Big difference. So...sometimes it IS the right decision. OTOH if the stallion is not stressed either living solo or can live with a good social situation there is no reason to geld. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Certainly not all stallions freeze well semen quality wise. And not all mares are good candidates to be bred with frozen semen either. In areas without vets well versed in dealing with frozen (or available at all for that many ultrasounds) then it is not the way to go either.
I don't think the use of frozen is as common in Germany ect as it is here (and it's not exactly the norm here either). Argentinus's frozen is notoriously iffy and I have no doubt if he were still alive and collecting he would have had WAY more breedings. The reality is that most people prefer fresh if they can get it and many look elsewhere if they can not so unless the stallion is so incredibly in demand then there is no doubt that having only frozen available will drastically effect use.
I just have a hard time picturing a SO with a valuable breeding stallion just offing the stallion and being fine with only being able to offer frozen semen. Sure keeping a horse is expensive but if the stallion is getting mares then he should certainly be paying for his own keep.
This happens a lot with bulls, who have semen collected and frozen. If the bull can produce really high quality frozen semen, and a LOT of it, it doesn't take long at a cost to produce of about $2 per dose, to put a lifetime's supply of semen at hand.
Dairy bulls are notoriously dangerous, which makes them a liability and VERY expensive to house, so very often the bull gets beefed once there is a lot of semen stored. In the case of a bull who would as soon kill his handlers, I think that beefing the bull is an ethically appropriate decision. You can't turn the bull out to breed a herd of dairy cows without a huge risk of the milkers/cow handlers getting hurt or killed, so the bull would live a pretty lousy existence in solitary confinement. If you wanted to collect semen later, you can't house him with a friend (bovine or otherwise) because of strict animal health/disease quarantine regulations...yes, even for frozen semen. So in that case, my opinion is that it is kindest for all involved if the bull is beefed.
Beef bulls have this happen as well. Most (though not all) AI beef bulls COULD go out to a ranch and breed cows naturally, without being a danger to the people involved in handling the cows. This would prevent future frozen semen export and sales, but if you do have enough semen frozen, I think ethically that is a much more appropriate thing to do with an elite bull. Let him go have a cowherd. Unfortunately, I think some AI studs collect a young bull, he proves out to be just average (so they won't sell any semen in the future), and so they beef him rather than finding him a home.
In fact, most of the bulls purchased by AI studs do not turn out to be money makers from semen sales. It's sort of like going to Kentucky and buying Kentucky Derby prospects- they're very expensive, but only a few turn out to be BIG winners. Most will be good racehorses, and a few will be complete duds. Same thing with AI studs buying bulls...a few superstars, lots of good, but not remarkable, bulls, and a few that should have been steers. So the AI studs have to have a plan for the, say, 80% of the bulls they buy that don't turn out to be exceptional. Many times their breeder/seller will take them back to turn out with registered cows, or their breeder has a customer/bull buyer who is thrilled to turn the bull out with his commercial/non registered cows. But not always, and I think that's sad.
As for a stallion, assuming he is not a Jockey Club TB and he produces great quality frozen semen, I would hope he would get gelded rather than euthanized. I would think an owner could, with some good networking, put a gelded former stallion with a show record, into the hands of a show home that could further promote him (or continue to promote him) as a sire.
If I were looking at a stallion to produce a child/amateur friendly (and thus very marketable) foal, I would consider it a huge plus if an amateur or child was showing the (former) stallion -as a gelding- successfully.
I really think the traditonal show / Sport Horse breeding facilities house and integrate their stallions into normal every day life far better than race barns and large commercial breeding establishments do. The stallions arent segregated and they do see other horses on a daily basis. My stallions gets turned out beside the mares and they're across from them in the barn and I think that is true for most members on this board that have stallions
I then recall the stallions that live behind plexiglass walls between their stall bars so they dont bite fingers off if anyone sticks them through the bars, the ones requiring 2 handlers with solid boat hooks to lead them in between them, the SB stallion that got loose and the handler ran and hid under a truck and was screaming as the stallion was on his knees trying to get at him - the stallions that have to be managed by staff that 100% know what they are doing every second they are close to that stallion, and the risk of injury or worse is there every single day. Day in and day out
If freezing was an option for one of those stallions, wouldnt safeguarding the well being of the humans be a more important priority? Some stallions ARE miserable SOB's to deal with day in and day out
Or - the stallion is only pulling in XX mares per year and putting pen to paper, the cost to maintain him each year is XXX but his breeding revenues are only XX. And gelding him isnt necessarily an option as many older breeding stallions dont necessarily revert to gelding like behaviour just because their testicles are gone and I also have no idea what the market would be like for an older, just gelded, former breeding stallion either especially if lameness was an issue as well
And I think in cases like John Henry and Cigar, people pay to go in and there and see them so each day, some money is added to the coffers to look after their upkeep
I have no idea if this is being done now - the "alluded" comment was that a couple of stallions that had a bunch of frozen done on them and put away then colicked shortly thereafter and were PTS and some eyebrows were raised and some comments made about the timing of it all. I wasnt told who the stallions were and I didnt ask.
And we also dont know the break even point for most stallions that stand here and overseas. For me, keeping mine at home, growing my own hay, doing my own work, doing the LC's myself and collecting him here as well, I need 4 paid breedings a year to cover his costs in their entirety. Where I boarded him out before we got this place, I needed 8 per year. So - do some SO's look at their numbers and say for the work they put into standing the stallion and looking after him, they just break even each year or are just under/over. Does it become just simply - a mathematical / economics decision in the end?
apart from the ethical considerations camohn raises practiclal considerations=some stallion dont freeze well, some mare dont take well to frozen, it is also expensive to freeze and store.
It sounds like it is really an issue of whether a stallion should be a stallion as others pointed out---I can not doubt that while mare owners might not care if they are alive, Voltaires owner, darco owners etc wish they were still alive. so poor examples.
John Henry was a gelding due to his vile temperment (and not so great conformation) as a colt...
I agree that many FAMOUS TB racehorses are well loved after retirement and many many owners and breeders take great care to make sure of a good retirement for their horses. Things have certainly changed for the better in that respect...
I find the thought of a SO euthing a stallion once they have enough semen ,to save the "expense of hay" abhorrent.
Perhaps because the U.S. does have a lot of space, gelding and either riding, or turning out in a field for retirement would be most SO's first thought, on this side of the pond.
We have a colt here we are planning to have inspected when he's ready, and (fingers crossed he does well) we plan to have semen frozen from him for use on our own mares and for sale purposes.
We do not intend to keep him forever at our place as we do not have the facilities (and I don't have the inclination) to have outside mares here for LC and it would be a shame not to have him used.
The options are to send him away to public stud or there is a possibility we would have him gelded once we have a store of semen. Bumping him on the head isn't an option...
We already have a large store of frozen semen from living and dead stallions (no suspicious circs. that I know of ), and are happy to use frozen on our own mares.
There was a big hue and cry over this article when it published in 2006 and many publically raked Tom over the coals for his practices. He then offered to give these culls to ANY person outside of Ireland, if they paid the transportation to their country. It then went quiet. There were no takers for his culled mares.
Many of us dont agree with someone else's breeding practices and why they are doing what they have done but Tom operates a very successful business and this is the model he felt he must adapt in order to survive and thrive in the horse breeding business
Is it any different when discussing stallions instead of mares???
No one cares if they are dead or alive - they still buy their semen if that stallion would suit their mare. So again I ask - why does the stallion need to be alive standing in your stall, costing money and time each month to maintain, if his semen sells just as well if he is dead or alive?"
from a livestock point of view he is completely correct...why bother?
the answer: because they are viewed as semi pets by their owners...
sometimes to the unfairness of the animal I think
Most stallions that have any real talent and value could be given away/sold easily or used as PR or fresh as Donella pointed out. Only someone with a very marginal animal would probably consider this. I don't think there is any issue with culling from breeding but that isn't what you are talking about here. Ireland has some issues with overpopulation and to be honest if I couldn't find a horse a good home, putting it down would be my second choice. So I guess I wonder about the validity of this persons point of view. Lots of people ship or put down animals for their own convenience. I don't really see the big debate, it happens lots. I just doubt that many serious stallion owners consider it if their stallion has any real value to start with.
Some do get old and have health issues. Then it is a quality of life issue that may be best answered by putting them down. Colic is maybe a quick public answer to the questions.
Well technically we don't need to keep any of them around unless you are Amish or the like and horses are a necessity of life. We don't need dogs or cats or rabbits or hamsters etc either. Thankfully that fact is irrelevant to most people's lives.
As some stallion owners will honestly admit, there are some stallions who just do not do well if they breed (or collect) and show simultaneously - they can be more edgy, more alert, and have difficulty concentrating and settling down into the work under saddle. Breeding, even AI, carries injury risks to both horse and handler (as we recently heard Totilas suffered a breeding accident severe enough to put an end to showing for the rest of the season).
I suspect, however, that the OP's friend viewed the topic is far more common than most know.
There are pros and cons to gelding a stallion and only maintaining frozen as someone above stated - some mares just don't take with frozen and it's nice to have the fresh around - you can increase your customer base by offering both frozen and fresh semen simultaneously (I am among the growing MO trend who prefer strictly frozen and only go to fresh if I absolutely have to because of the mare). Certain mare owners will always wonder, sometimes out loud on forums such as this, as to why he was gelded (was it temperament, was it this, was it that?).
On the other hand, stallions take specific care and attention and if an owner doesn't have time for that or they cannot afford to keep him at a stallion collection center, then they should either sell him to someone who can give the boy the proper care and attention he needs, or geld him.
I personally have moral difficulty with killing the stallion just because you got what you needed from him (a bunch of frozen semen). If that sort of decision needs to be made, I would rather he be gelded and sold to go on to have a productive full life.