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Do you breed to earn a living?

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  • Do you breed to earn a living?

    I'm new to the forum and have been reading so many great threads and learning lots. One thing that I've seen come up many times is how most people either lose money or barely break even but are in it for the love of breeding and/or the tax breaks. So if someone like me comes along and would like to make a modest living breeding and selling, would you tell me it's a pipe-dream? Is there anyone out there actually doing financially well? I know that in most other business start-ups you're looking at 5 years before getting in the black. Is that the same with sport-horse breeding? Any advice is appreciated - even if it's run now and don't look back

  • #2
    Sporthorse breeding is a "get poor quick" scheme .
    Still Crazy After All These Years

    Comment


    • #3
      Breeding is not for the faint of heart... :-)

      Assuming that you have a farm with a barn and fenced in paddocks and know your way around horses, breeding can be an aspiration than may lead to financial gains here and there.

      You need to start with an investment in order to make money... that investment is your broodmares! They need to be from good bloodlines in the discipline that you want to breed for in order to reduce the risk of unknowns in the offspring. You should have enough money to buy three or four GOOD broodmares, breed them to the best stallions in your chosen discipline, get the mares through their pregnancy, and raise the resulting foals to 3-year olds. That's just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions... :-)

      The other thing I think is worth mentioning is that it takes experience to consistently produce good youngsters that people want to buy from you. Experience = time, so don't expect to know it all in your first few years of breeding... you won't! So you spend the time and money to build a reputation and then fulfill that reputation by selling the right youngsters to the right homes, all the time. There are no short-cuts, you have to do the right thing all the time! Some years later word will get out that you are known for breeding dynamite youngsters and if clients are lucky enough they can actually buy one from you.

      That's all you have to do... :-)
      Be a good and responsible breeder and you will be successful.

      Best,
      Siegi
      Siegi Belz
      www.stalleuropa.com
      2007 KWPN-NA Breeder of the Year
      Dutch Warmbloods Made in the U. S. A.

      Comment


      • #4
        Siegi is right. There are no short cuts!!! This year is the first year I've actually broke even, after 7 years of breeding. I actually made enough money this year to pay all my horse expences including sending my stallion to the 100 day test. But I did not make one penny that went into my own wallet. I consider this a great success.

        Buy the BEST mares you can find. I would suggest buying fewer, extremely GREAT quality mares. Breed to the BEST stallions you can afford.

        The semen is the cheapest thing going into the foal so don't try to save money there. Buy the best. There are stallion auctions and other ways to get the best for lesser fees. I would also use farms where the stallion owner is very easy to reach. Send them pictures of your mares and they can help you make good stallion matches. I've had very good luck with Rainbow Eqqus Meadows, Woodridge Farms, and the Ultimate Piaffe. All the stallion owners are available daily and will help you pick the best stallion for your mare.

        You may need to sell you foals for less in the beginning to get your babies into the show ring to make a name for you.

        Show your babies. Let eveybody see what nice quality you are breeding.

        I would say that breeding is a fabulous business but don't expect to make money the first 5 to 7 years. You'll need to find another way to support your business. I may be wrong, but this has been my experience.

        Have fun! Breeding has been a great thrill for me and my family.
        Chris Misita
        www.hiddenvalleyfarms.net Home of Bravo and Warrick!
        To dare; progress comes at this price. All sublime conquests are, more or less, the rewards of daring.
        Victor Hugo

        Comment


        • #5
          I actually made money the first 5-7 years, and now am in a low spot, 10 years in.

          I certainly didn't make a living, but I sold enough foals and breedings to pay for *all* the horses' feed, hay and feet etc. for the year.

          Two excellent posts above mine. Very, very good advice in both.

          I am in a stage right now where I am spending A TON in order to improve and build for the future. No sale foal(s) this year or next hurts. And I haven't advertised or stood the stallion to outside mares as we concentrated on training, moving up, getting the 3rd level scores to finish his RPSI Approveal... and then life interrupted with a dire family illness.

          I work 4 jobs, one FT (with health insc!) two PT, (spending $$) teaching (sporadic/seasonal) plus the farm to squeak by. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Well, of course, I'd LOVE to *just* do the farm, but it is, hopefully, my retirement income. I mean, I don't begrudge the hours I have to put in outside of the farm to build it up right now. There were several excellent years, and now it's lean... there will be more excellent years as long as I strive for excellence at each turning point.
          InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

          Comment


          • #6
            From an accounting standpoint, do a business plan and a very detailed financial plan. You may change your mind quickly!
            www.spindletopfarm.net
            Home of Puerto D'Azur - 1998 NA 100 Day Test Champion
            "Charcter is much easier kept than recovered"

            Comment


            • #7
              I have found it impossible to make profit. Every time I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and perhaps I will make a profit-- BOOM--something happens. Vet bills, and hay are the 2 items that drain my budget. You can not scrimp on quality vet care. And the horses have to have hay. The others are right, you must buy quality broodmares if you want nice resulting foals. And you must maintain high ethics and be honest. People will come back to you many times over if you offer high quality foals and deal with honesty.
              Windswept Stables-Specializing in Ponies
              Sales, Breaking,Training,Showing, Stud Service

              Home of 2008 Sire of Year Reserve Champion
              Pony Hunter Breeding - Empires Power

              www.EmpiresPower.com

              Comment


              • #8
                No need to add to the already excellent advice, but to answer the OPs question: I breed to afford horses. If they didn't pay for themselves at least a little with the potential for a windfall every now and then, I just couldn't afford the kind of horses I enjoy.
                Sportponies Unlimited
                Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Business model

                  Unfortunately there are very few people in the United States who can earn a living from breeding. Of those who do most of them, after years of getting established actually just break even - and they NEVER see the return on the actual investment (cost of land, facilities, utilities AND interest on the money they invested).

                  It is due to a lot of facts, but the biggest problem is that there is no "ASSUMING VALUE" for a weanling, yearling or a 2 YO. What it means, that when you produced a young horse, there's no real and reasonable pricetag on the horse (based on bloodlines, looks and movement) for which you could sell this foal at any time. In several countries in Europe, the farmer produces a foal and after weaning the FOAL BUYERS come and buy the farmers foal e.g. for 5000 Euros, more or less. The farmer may opt not to sell the foal at that time, but wait and take his chances at an auction, sell the foal privately or wait and raise the foal - but most sell them. The foalbuyer then raises the foal and sells it to professional trainers when time comes. You know exactly how much you can get for your foal and when - and it's a steady income and you can base an income producing, mostly sidebusiness on it.

                  I am lucky to be able to train and show my youngsters, thus I do make a living at it, but I was NEVER able to make breeding and selling foals as a base of that. If I had to pay someone to train, show and sell my horses, I would lose too much money.

                  I also have to sell more horses that I can breed and raise on my farm to make a living. The quality and level of handling of the horses that I was getting in for trainiing and sale was very diverse and it always took me too much time to handle them, train them and make them sellable to my standards so this is what I started doing:

                  I work with some small breeders - and establish a decent mare base (sometimes existing, but sometimes we have to make some changes). Then I provide stallion services at a very reasonable price, get the mares pregnant. After the foals are born, I give training to the breeder how to raise, handle and train the foals, give assistance at approvals. Grooming, proper farrier and vet care, in-hand shows and free jumping are all integral part of this process. When the young horse comes of age, if the breeder is capable of starting the youngsters forst on the lunge line then under saddle, I TRAIN them how it has to be done. If they do not have the ability or situation to do that, I start the youngsters for them, at a discounted rate. Eventually all these young horses come to me and I train them (sometimes show them) and sell them. If the young horse is decent in ability, soundness and temperament, I make money for the breeder at the end. Not enough to make a living, but enough to pay for all the expenses and some. If we end up with a really talented and special youngster, then more money is there to be made for everybody. The problem is when a lot of uneducated small breeders a very mediocre horse can be very special and they expect top dollar for them - and in that case this model does not work. It also does not work when the owner becomes impatient and loses faith in the process and bails before the right buyer is found. In this process, because we are talking about young, talented horses (who are also marketed by the talent and visibility of their sires) and they are in good training, their value keeps going up and up, so all the expenses and some profit is always recouped at the end. It also works for me because I do not have to deal with horses with shaky backgrounds, undesireable behavior, substandard talent and false expectations from the breeders.

                  www.prairiepinesfarm.com
                  Andras
                  http://www.prairiepinesfarm.com
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4SfHHhoc_8
                  http://www.andrasszieberthtraining.blogspot.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    When I saw the title of this thread I laughed a little. Breeding is a great way to throw your money down the drain. Many people responded that breaking even is a success to them. I would agree. I breed because it is in my blood. A riding horse of mine became a broodmare. I bought her as a jumper but she became injured and it turns out she is a fabulous broodmare. Then I purchased another broodmare, older but exceptional bloodlines and breeding quality. My current riding horse will probably become a broodmare too soon. I do wonder sometimes if there is something wrong with me for keeping at it, financially speaking. The one post a few posts up said it well. You are doing ok, perhaps even getting ahead of the game financially with the breeding, then *bam* something happens. Last year a mare got potomac somehow. No other horses around had it. I do not know where it came from and she was vacinated for potomac. She ended up at MSU for a week. She survived but lost her pregnancy. I asked the vets at MSU if there was anything I could have done to avoid this from happening. They said no other then "black topping your property." Since that is not an option it is just one of those things that happens. It cost me thousands of dollars in vet bills just to save her and then there was no baby to cover her vet bills, normal bills or her breeding bills. Just more bills. What can you do.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Naw, I tend to fall in love with babies and keep them
                      http://www.herselffarm.com
                      Proud of my Hunter Breeding Princesses
                      "Grief is the price we all pay for love," Gretchen Jackson (1/29/07) In Memory of Barbaro

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What everyone else said. I was all set to make a nice profit this year. HA! A foal was born premature and dysmature. Went to the hospital for intensive care. Since he seemed to be improving day by day, we kept at it. He was finally standing on his own and nursing and playing in the stall. Vet calls - one small problem - has a little urine leakage and we need to take him to surgery and do the repair. He'll be running around again by this afternoon, can we take him to surgery? Sure, I say. He calls me back in about an hour. They had him on the table, had opened him up, and found that most of his intestine was dead. By that point, including stud feees, shipping semen, breeding the mare, (not including keeping the mare 'cause I keep her anyway), foaling the mare, hospital care, I had about $18,000 in him and he had to be put down - they can't live without their intestine. Then a really good sale on a horse fell through at the last minute - and that's after the same thing happened last spring on a different horse. The people suddenly realized that they didn't have the money to purchase after all.

                        Yes, you CAN make a small fortune by breeding. Just start with a very large fortune!!!
                        Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
                        Now apparently completely invisible!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I am one of those who are happy to break even....at least on gross margin. After overhead like depreciation, I'm surely breeding at a loss. My situation might be a little different as I'm a preservation breeder involved in a rare breed...and one that is fairly unknown and has been poor managed by their registries for decades...so it's a slow process bringing awareness to them and building a market for them. I also compete with ranchers with thousands of acres who can afford to sell a wild, unhandled, wormy, never trimmed nor vaccinated foal for $600. Those same ranchers who mass produce see nothing wrong with selling the culls/unsold babies at meat auctions either and I won't do it...I will provide for every foal I raise until I sell it to an appropriate home. My crops are much smaller and I raise about 4-8 foals a year and focus on quality and purpose breed for a sport type. The last year I spent doing a great deal of breed/farm promotion and it seems to have paid off...more interest in the horses and sales have picked up and more breeders around the US are asking better prices...so the trend is changing I think and much for the better. Interest is springing up in Europe also and there is a trickle of our breed's horses headed that way and the possibility of a lucrative market there for us.

                          I depend greatly on my boarding/training/breeding services business though to "carry" my farm. This year the entire combined operation will perhaps get a small profit or break even and next year, projections show a profit finally. The breeding side may also profit barring any unforeseen circumstances. Fingers crossed that it works out as planned.

                          I don't make a full living off the horses as I still work part time two days a week and do other small jobs for extra income. I think I can probably replace my former income with the combined business in the coming year but make a living completely without a spouses income...no, I doubt it. I do it mainly for love of what I'm doing and to try to help make a difference in the legacy of the horses I love.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Depends on the year!

                            I have a "real job" to afford what I do, and sometimes that doesn't work either!

                            I honestly think no breeder does it to earn a living. I think we do it because we're passionate about it. At least I'd like to think so.
                            Randee Beckman ~Otteridge Farm, LLC (http://on.fb.me/1iJEqvR)~ Marketing Manager - The Clothes Horse & Jennifer Oliver Equine Insurance Specialist

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I didn't see any simple "yes" answers, nor did I expect to. Practically all who may appear to make money actually have another job, a spouse with another income, or a very industrious Grandfather-a very different reality from making a living at it.
                              www.HistoricHousePreservation.com

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Most of the people I know who have made a living ... or part of their living ... breeding horses seem to be from a farm/ranch background where raising livestock was a way of life. If you are dependant upon raising livestock of any kind ... sheep, cattle, horses ... to pay your bills and put food on the table you have to make decisions based on a good business plan and practical financial decisions.

                                That is one of the biggest things I see as a problem, too often horse breeders end up with incredible vet bills to "save" a foal ... or broodmare ... or a young gelding ... when from a financial point of view, it is not reasonable to attempt to do so. Financially, that foal, even if it survives, will never sell for enough to cover the vet bill ... or the broodmare may end up with issues that will keep her from ever being a reliable producing mare in the future or the gelding may never be 100% sound.

                                This is something my first equine vet lectured me over and over about ... "recoverable" vet costs. He was a horse breeder himself as well as a vet and every time I had a mare that was difficult to settle, seemed prone to uterine infections, required Regumate to hold a pregnancy or was inclined to twin ... he gave me his set speech on how it was no more expensive to feed a mare that you could lead past the stud and she'd have a foal 11 months later!

                                He did the same with foals ... or young horses ... his recommendations were based on practical outcomes, which for him ... and his ranching clients ... meant that the vet costs were not in excess of what that animal could contribute to the business.
                                Kaleidoscope Farm
                                http://www.stallionstation.com/kaleidoscopefarm

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by szipi View Post
                                  In several countries in Europe, the farmer produces a foal and after weaning the FOAL BUYERS come and buy the farmers foal e.g. for 5000 Euros, more or less. The farmer may opt not to sell the foal at that time, but wait and take his chances at an auction, sell the foal privately or wait and raise the foal - but most sell them. The foalbuyer then raises the foal and sells it to professional trainers when time comes. You know exactly how much you can get for your foal and when - and it's a steady income and you can base an income producing, mostly sidebusiness on it.
                                  I didn't know this about Europe - it makes so much sense to have this type of system in place. I wonder why there aren't a lot of foal buyers who then raise the foal and then resell to pro trainers. These European foal buyers are somewhat like the pinhookers in Thoroughbred racing who buy yearlings, then after a year of beefing them up and initial training, sell them for a nice profit as two year olds in training. I wonder why this type of "middle-man" doesn't exist in the sporthorse world here in North America.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    It does seem as if there are many breeders to produce horses and many trainers to ride the horses. However, there does not seem to be a lot of resources or people devoted to the in-between (from weaning to riding).

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Sportpony View Post
                                      That is one of the biggest things I see as a problem, too often horse breeders end up with incredible vet bills to "save" a foal ... or broodmare ... or a young gelding ... when from a financial point of view, it is not reasonable to attempt to do so. Financially, that foal, even if it survives, will never sell for enough to cover the vet bill ... or the broodmare may end up with issues that will keep her from ever being a reliable producing mare in the future or the gelding may never be 100% sound.
                                      I think this is very true. Certainly it has been true for me on several occasions. That is one thing you have to consider if you want to "breed for a living", I think you have to be able to make the hard decisions to cut your losses and put down horses that are going to cost more than they are worth even if you know you could save them. Personally, I CAN'T do that. I can't look at a foal struggling to survive and not do all I can; I can't not go for the colic surgery even if it means going deeper into debt, etc. And so I don't think I could ever make a living off of my horses. I'm not making any judgments on people who can make purely economical decisions without letting their emotions be involved, but I can't. I just have to do what I have to do to sleep at night. But I do think that it is naive to think that making a living with horses is as simple as get quality mares, produce quality foals, build reputation, sell foals for expected sum and boom! financial success will be yours. Bad luck is inevitable in this business, some of us have more than others, but I think every breeder is faced with the decision of spending lots of money to save a horse at some point and I expect the the people who can make a decision based strictly on economics are the ones closer to actually making a living in this difficult business.
                                      www.heartofgoldfarm.com

                                      RIP "Rio" (BW-Clarion) 2000-2009. Bright Spirit, Brave Heart, Loving Soul. I'll love and miss you forever.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Sportpony View Post
                                        Most of the people I know who have made a living ... or part of their living ... breeding horses seem to be from a farm/ranch background where raising livestock was a way of life. If you are dependant upon raising livestock of any kind ... sheep, cattle, horses ... to pay your bills and put food on the table you have to make decisions based on a good business plan and practical financial decisions.

                                        That is one of the biggest things I see as a problem, too often horse breeders end up with incredible vet bills to "save" a foal ... or broodmare ... or a young gelding ... when from a financial point of view, it is not reasonable to attempt to do so. Financially, that foal, even if it survives, will never sell for enough to cover the vet bill ... or the broodmare may end up with issues that will keep her from ever being a reliable producing mare in the future or the gelding may never be 100% sound.

                                        This is something my first equine vet lectured me over and over about ... "recoverable" vet costs. He was a horse breeder himself as well as a vet and every time I had a mare that was difficult to settle, seemed prone to uterine infections, required Regumate to hold a pregnancy or was inclined to twin ... he gave me his set speech on how it was no more expensive to feed a mare that you could lead past the stud and she'd have a foal 11 months later!

                                        He did the same with foals ... or young horses ... his recommendations were based on practical outcomes, which for him ... and his ranching clients ... meant that the vet costs were not in excess of what that animal could contribute to the business.

                                        Sportpony I think you hit on something. We breed small livestock on our farm and I don't become attached to them in the same way I do with my horses. But then again my relationship with my equine friends is way more personal. We do so much of our own vet-type care with our other livestock but I'm the first on the phone to our equine vet disregarding the fact that I'll be paying for an emergency call when something suspicious is up with the horses. That might be a downfall in breeding horses for me - managing the vet calls because I have a trigger finger

                                        I have to admit I am surprised to hear that almost nobody makes a decent stand-alone living in sporthorses. Are people making it in other horse breeds or disciplines or with those unique cremello/special color horses? I really want to add a profitible and fun horse breeding operation to our farm.

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