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a rather provocative post about TBs and the recession

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  • a rather provocative post about TBs and the recession

    Andrew Sullivan's influential blog, the Daily Dish, has a regular reader-generated feature called "The View From Your Recession", in which readers write about their recent financial experiences.

    Today's post
    :

    My father is a Thoroughbred breeder in Virginia. For pure breeding operations such as his, the cash flow works as follows: mare is bred early in the year, foal is born early the next year. Stud fee is due once foal stands and nurses, in most cases. The following September, the yearling is sold at auction. This year, between 50% and 75% of yearlings sold for less than the stud fee paid. As a result, breeders do not have the cash on hand to pay the stud fees for mares that are now in foal. Mares are being put down so that the foal cannot stand and nurse, and the stud fee is then not due. Just to clarify, my dad has not and will not be putting down any mares, but anecdotally, it is happening.
    I thought this was worth sharing...

  • #2
    Well, geez, JER, you certainly didn't brighten my day!

    I spent yet another morning walking my racetrack with a group of women looking for a specific horse for a friend to replace her oldster who will soon be pts. I'm not new to this, and we looked at a good many beautiful, serviceable, sound TBs who, in most cases, must be moved within the next couple of months. There are some standouts who will sell quickly and for the money asked, but the bulk of them will languish for a myriad of reasons, eventhough I truly believe that each and every one could fill the spot for the right person.

    I absolutely understand the economic reality behind the production of TBs. I understand that mares are being sent to the best stallions that any breeder believes that he/she can afford. I understand that hopes are high and worst case scenario is in the far recesses at the time of cover. With eleven months to work on it, I can comprehend how easy it is to think that the expenses can be covered in almost a year's time.

    No one is exempt from the impact of this recession, especially in the TB breeding business. Everyone expects to make a killing and, when that doesn't happen, my stomach churns to think that the "only" way out is to kill a mare in foal to avoid paying the stud fee. Since when is recouping the stud fee a given? Why would a reputable breeder not hang on to a foal until it is at least a yearling, or a 2 y.o. in training? I have no patience for breeders who treat their stock so poorly and, at the very least, with a mandate that they must turn a profit EVERY YEAR to be worthy of keeping around.

    Anecdotally, I know of yearlings who sold for pennies and went on to be Stakes winners. There are plenty more examples of TBs who sell for high $$ who can't outrun the watertruck. Point is? The current market does not determine the eventual worth of in-utero foals. Furthermore, these breeders can't find interested buyers to at least partially defray the stud fees? Come on! If the stud fees are "that" high, someone will be interested in them. Dead mare, dead foal are worth nothing.

    Blech! Yet another night of fretting!

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    • #3
      My question, especially as this is anecdotal heresay: wouldn't the stallion owners start to get suspicious if mares suddenly started getting put down in increased numbers, especially those bred to the priciest stallions? I haven't read a breeding contract, but that sounds fraudulent. (Also, really, an anonymous commenter on Andrew Sullivan's blog? I'm not putting a huge amount of credence in that.)
      Author Page
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      • #4
        That is stupid. You could abort the mare so there was no stud fee due but then of course you would still have to feed her. Hopefully this will force the asshats out of business.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home

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        • #5
          In Ireland, these rumors have been circulating for since last year. And since I got my info from a stallion owner friend I'd have to take it as having some truth. Stallion owner can't do a thing really. Even better to know some people had healthy filly foals put down as soon as they were born. That would mostly be in the National Hunt market. But having lived here for 8 years, this kind of thing doesn't even shock me anymore.

          Terri
          COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

          "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.

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          • #6
            So there is nothing in the contract that just prevents a mare from being put down for no reason?
            We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.
            www.dleestudio.com

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            • #7
              Originally posted by DLee View Post
              So there is nothing in the contract that just prevents a mare from being put down for no reason?
              I am thinking that whoever drew up the contracts never envisioned anyone going to such extreme measures just to avoid paying a stud fee.
              www.OneJumpAhead.ca

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              • #8
                While I'm sure there may be a few isolated cases, I am pretty well tied into this industry and my SO is a horse vet. He has not had any requests to euthanize pregnant mares and/or prostin mares so they won't have live foals. I have not heard a single substantiated case of a mare owner going to those extremes. Again, I'm sure there may be an isolated case here and there, but most of the stud farms are agreeing to convert the contracts to pay from proceeds, or negotiating other terms, so people are hanging on to them.

                DLee - no, there is not a convenience euthanasia clause in any of the stallion contracts that I have seen or written.

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                • #9
                  I'm not going to say people haven't done it, but it isn't widespread. I can, however, see someone being a lot less willing to take on vet expense if a mare gets sick or injured right now and when previously they may have sent her to the hospital, now they opt for euthanasia (and get the double bonus of no stud fee, too).

                  To get out of a stud fee, you need a vet statement saying why the mare either did not get in foal, lost the foal or died. I have noticed this past year that farms are more serious about this. When, in the past, I could simply make a call if a mare failed to catch, this year they demanded a vet statement.

                  People not paying stud fees is not unheard of. It's something farms deal with a lot. Usually, that just results in a foal that isn't registered, as the stud farm holds the stallion service certificate. I would think mare owners would try to negotiate with the farm before putting losing the mare just to get out of the stud fee.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SleepyFox View Post
                    I'm not going to say people haven't done it, but it isn't widespread. I can, however, see someone being a lot less willing to take on vet expense if a mare gets sick or injured right now and when previously they may have sent her to the hospital, now they opt for euthanasia (and get the double bonus of no stud fee, too).

                    To get out of a stud fee, you need a vet statement saying why the mare either did not get in foal, lost the foal or died. I have noticed this past year that farms are more serious about this. When, in the past, I could simply make a call if a mare failed to catch, this year they demanded a vet statement.

                    People not paying stud fees is not unheard of. It's something farms deal with a lot. Usually, that just results in a foal that isn't registered, as the stud farm holds the stallion service certificate. I would think mare owners would try to negotiate with the farm before putting losing the mare just to get out of the stud fee.
                    See, this makes sense to me. You've not only lost the potential foal, you just lost the mare and any future progeny and had to spend money to do it. Doing that once is economincally dubious, doing it as a practice is economic suicide. Especially as AVERAGE stud fees (not the absolute top-end six-figure horses) are not a huge chunk of change if you're someone who is heavily into the breeding industry. Upkeep of the mare band, feed, vet care, etc is all going to run a lot more than one stud fee. I especially can't see making it a large-scale habit as pretty soon you'd be out of business. If you absolutely are convinced you're not going to have the money, default on the fee, don't register the foal, and sell it for $200-500 euthanasia and disposal would have cost you. And that would STILL tee off the stud farm.
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                    • #11
                      With so many stallions vying for mares, wouldn't it be more practical to try and negotiate with the SO to defer the payment, or make payments or get a lower stud fee, even after the fact. In this economy I think there is negotiation room everywhere. Putting down mares and newborn fillies just makes my blood run cold.
                      PennyG

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                      • #12
                        This sounds to me like one of those internet rumors where someone has heard something from someone else and passes it along. By the third time it appears it is GOSPEL TRUTH and everyone gets all upset over nothing. Why is it always so easy for everyone to believe the worst about the TB industry?

                        I agree with Sleepy Fox and Las Olas that while there may have been very isolated incidents, it certainly isn't widespread. For starters, the economics don't work.

                        It's one thing to assume that a resulting foal will be worth less than stud fee--though we're talking now about foals that will be born in 2010 and offered for sale as yearlings in 2011 when, many people believe, the twin facts of the economy strengthening and the foal crop decreasing will make sales prices rise.

                        It's another to think that the mare herself is worth less than the cost of one stud fee. That just doesn't happen except in very unusual cases.
                        www.laurienberenson.com

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