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Is it worth it anymore?

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  • Is it worth it anymore?

    I have been struggling to keep it business as usual. In light of the economy the way it is, I have kept my prices very low by trying very hard to keep expenses low. I figure even a small profit is better than none so I price accordingly. I breed top quality mares to top quality stallions and very, very carefully pick each and every pairing. I breed some for dressage, some for hunter/jumpers and some for eventing. I breed for good temperament, conformation and long term soundness. I work with every baby from the moment it hits the ground...but what I heard yesterday makes me think it's just not worth it.

    I had an email from a person who has purchased from me in the past. Loves my breeding program and comes out fairly often to see what we have available. He is German born and fairly new to U.S. and knows bloodlines very well. He wants jumpers, big jumpers. Anyway, he told me that if he couldn't get a weanling for $8,000 or less here in the U.S. with the bloodlines he wants he would just as soon import from Germany. He said it's cheaper and overall you get better quality. He said that even though he loved my stock that in the U.S. breeders inflate their prices and many don't even breed with a goal in mind. That many U.S. breeders breed any mare to the "flavor of the month" stallion with no clear expectation of the result.

    Even though he complimented me, I felt like crap. I told him that it is very hard to put a young one on the ground for under $6,000 and that doesn't include my or my worker's compensation. That's just plain dollars to get it here and that is if all goes well. I asked him how is it possible then to make money at all if buyers like him won't pay more than $6,000 (what he says he typically pays) for a well bred, well worked with weanling? How is it possible to import one for $8,000 and have it better quality than here? I research bloodlines and niches and do conformational overlays etc... etc... yet he thinks most American breeders do nothing and sometimes just get lucky. Anyway, long story short, if this is the view of most buyers now and they can still get cheaper and better in Europe than why should anyone try as hard as I do? This just makes me feel like throwing in the towel. What are other breeders thoughts? Is it at all worth it anymore?
    www.lazyjsporthorses.com

  • #2
    His attitude is typically European.

    Look, lj - as a general rule, Europeans don't care if a youngster has been handled or not. They don't care if it's a hellion to shoe/spray/blanket/needle, whatever. As long as it moves or jumps like stink, they - don't - care.

    They will have no qualms about breeding to a Jumper stallion that is known to be a nasty SOB and a b*tch to ride, if he's got upper level talent and produces it reliably.

    They will have no qualms about culling mercilessly, and this often means tossing a bunch of adorable foals or yearlings onto the meat truck bound for France.

    It's ugly. But it's a business. Horses are livestock, not pets.
    Therein lies the fundamental difference. Horses live out and are ridiculously cheap to keep until they are three. Breeders have state support in the $$ department.

    Here in NA, our horse culture is different. Our buying market is different.

    I was having this very conversation with a friend of mine this past weekend, who was visiting from Ireland - she is a Dressage rider, works as a bloodstock agent for Coolmore Stud and worked with Nick Skelton's GP stallions last year. She confirmed what I had already long suspected. Nobody breeds "specifically for ammie horses" in Europe. In fact, she stated it's patently undesirable to get a quiet, gentle, steady-eddy type as this is often a horse that will lack the spark and energy to get to the top. They WANT pistols! They want the freaks of nature who are hot and sensitive and wired cuz those ones move like demons possessed and jump houses!!

    The fact is, pros and very, very serious/talented ammies make up the majority of the riding population in Europe. She told me anything under 1m30 in the Jumper ring and anything under 3rd level in Dressage is considered "kiddie stuff". It's where the pros school their greenies - that's about it.

    In NA, it's the opposite. Those riders make up a very small percentage of the buying market. We are a continent of pleasure riders, soccer moms who toodle around the 3ft ring, and retirees who want to dabble at 1st-2nd level Dressage. We are hobby riders.

    So, from my point of view and what was harshly confirmed by my friend's experience, if you truly want to breed for upper levels in this country, you'd better have some darn good connections, a lot of land, a crapload of money and a heart of stone. You need to be willing to offload the subpar babies early and not care about where they go, you need to be able to kick them out to pasture and not spend ridiculous amounts of money on them if they get "sickies", just put them down and move on, etc etc etc.

    Otherwise, for the majority of breeders, it makes way, waaaay more sense to breed for the largest market on the continent - OUR ammie riders, who do not care if their horse is truly Olympic material as long as it's safe, cute and fun to ride and hack and handle.

    The European ammie market is not only smaller, but still very different. European riders are fearless, and most kids are jumping 1m20 on ponies by the time they're 10-12 years old. It's a whoooole different ballgame over there!!

    But too many have trouble swallowing the idea of "relegating themselves" to breeding lowly ammie horses... whether it's due to pride, disdain, I dunno..... but there is nothing wrong with breeding for the NA amateur market. Nothing.

    I am sorry you're feeling the pinch of the economy, LJ.
    Best of luck.

    ps - he is right about NA breeders not having clear expectations a lot of the time. In Europe, you are breeding for a very specific discipline, and the very top of that discipline no less. And if it's bred to jump and doesn't have the scope, it will get sold for peanuts or put on the meat truck and nobody will blink about it. It's that simple. Here in NA most breeders shudder at the thought of having to cull, but it's just part and parcel of the breeding business over the pond.
    www.jlsporthorsesales.net

    Comment


    • #3
      WEll said ASBJUmper, and that truly is the difference. Good breeding programs in any endeavor, beit cattle, horses etc CULL the ones that are subpar, that are weak, that aren't producing etc. Good breeding programs don't look at their animals as pets, with personalities etc, they look at them as a means to an end, the outstanding individual that will make money and produce more great offspring. The Cattle ranchers out west knew that and they produced incredibly tough, hardy ranch horses that were outstanding at their jobs. The Europeans know that, and produce the top horses in sport today. THe average American breeder does not.
      www.shawneeacres.net

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      • #4
        Thanks ASB. That was actually pretty encouraging for me. I hope 'tis true for others as well! I am incredibly grateful for my super duper sweet ammy friendly stallion that makes really sweet (and competitive) ammy friendly horses for people like me who need AND WANT horses like that! If anything, from what I have seen, ammy horses will sell better and more quickly in America anyway, since that is what most people are looking for. It does seem discouraging at times when you compare what we do with what they are doing in Europe, but as ASB rightly pointed out, it's an entirely different ball game here, and I for one am o.k. with that! So is it worth it anymore in light of the economy? Not sure. It's gonna take some serious teeth-gritting for those who choose to stick it out, that's for sure.

        www.foxdalefarm.us

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        • #5
          Originally posted by shawneeAcres View Post
          WEll said ASBJUmper, and that truly is the difference. Good breeding programs in any endeavor, be it cattle, horses etc CULL the ones that are sub par, that are weak, that aren't producing etc. Good breeding programs don't look at their animals as pets, with personalities etc, they look at them as a means to an end, the outstanding individual that will make money and produce more great offspring. .
          it is suggested that every year 25% of the breeding stock is replaced with something better...either from outside or inside but replaced nonetheless

          best
          Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
          I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

          Comment


          • #6
            Aren't the stallions also owned by or supplimented by the Gov..?

            So the breeders there don't see $2k+ stud fees for breeding, so in fact, if they cull an inferior baby, they AREN'T throwing away a baby with $5k in it before it takes it's first breath? ...
            " iCOTH " window/bumper stickers. Wood Routed Stall and Farm Signs
            http://www.bluemooncustomsigns.com

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            • #7
              (I would like to add the disclaimer that I personally fully endorse the NA ammie breeders market - I have no desire to own a nasty, quirky SOB of a horse and I know a lot of NA peeps feel the same way!! )
              www.jlsporthorsesales.net

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ljshorses View Post
                Anyway, long story short, if this is the view of most buyers now and they can still get cheaper and better in Europe than why should anyone try as hard as I do? This just makes me feel like throwing in the towel. What are other breeders thoughts? Is it at all worth it anymore?
                I made myself unpopular once on another board when I said that you must keep your "inputs" below your expected "profit" or you will have no profit

                to use a neutral product take my hay

                three years ago the break even spot for grass hay was about $110 a ton or 2.75/bale...so for a producer anything selling for more than 2.75/50bale was profit

                last year it was $200/ton or $5/bale (50 pounds)..so for what ever reason a bale of hay leaves here for less than $200/ton we are loosing money on that bit of hay...period

                this is the beauty of having both an Ag Economist and your own CPA on the payroll they tell us these things...

                so the first rule of farming is make enough to come back next spring with whatever you have chosen to farm....

                if someone can make hay cheaper than me and it is just as good, it behooves me to bring it in and resell it...keeping the profit for me and keeping the distribution network with me and preventing outside hay from coming to my established customers

                horses are not any different really...

                things are hard now,you have my sympathy
                Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Anyway, long story short, if this is the view of most buyers now and they can still get cheaper and better in Europe than why should anyone try as hard as I do?
                  I don't believe anyone is buying top foals in Germany for less than top foals here. To the contrary, in Europe top foals bring very high prices and these offset the lower prices of the less stellar ones. Breeders can and do count on being able to get good prices for top youngsters - why would they give them away. I suspect it is your friend that is only paying attention to fancy names on paper, not the US breeders. Sure, I can find plenty of middling quality foals cheap with a fancy pedigree there - just as I can here. But I doubt any would be nearly as nice as the top foals I or others produce.

                  From time to time I have had clients make comments similar to those your friend made. My view is, great for them if they can find such super deals. In fact, if I do not have anything suitable at a price that is attractive to them I am among the first to recommend other breeders. But I also find that quality sells, and quality does not come cheap unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., seller under duress. or buyer is the next coming of Courtney K-D and offering to bring the baby along to GP).
                  Last edited by YankeeLawyer; Nov. 18, 2009, 06:52 PM.
                  Roseknoll Sporthorses
                  www.roseknoll.net

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I hear what you're saying overall, but in this particular instance I think this person would be very hard pressed to buy the higher quality AND get it here for the numbers mentioned...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It sounds to me as if your dealer friend is much more dealer than friend. He's playing politics with you, trying to convince you to accept lower prices for your stock than you'd hoped for. Importing from Europe costs thousands. It simply isn't possible to import a top quality foal for less than $6000.

                      If I were you I'd keep your prices at the level you know you need to keep your business going and smile sweetly at your dealer friend and tell him your foals are top quality and are available to buy at the right price. No point in making an enemy but no point thinking this person is a friend either.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If my main motive to breed was to make money, I'd have quit a long time ago. I breed for the love of the breed...and to ensure there will be Colonial Spanish horses of good quality for the future and not extinct in 50 years. Having said that, I'd be happy to break even some day. I do think the economy is killing a lot of people and it certainly has not helped me any. I'm working my butt off as a trimmer to buy hay and keep going, keep promoting and introducing new people to our breed...and I have no intention of quitting now. To do that...and watch other breeders fold in these hard times, will be to know that there is no future for our breed...and that is unacceptable.

                        I do however take great satisfaction in seeing some of my youngsters get exported to Europe instead of the other way around...or to have to compete for buyers from European imports as you WB folks do. That must bite. I have two more going over in the Spring to Switzerland.

                        I have also proudly bred for ammies and family horses and that is 99% of where my babies have gone that are sold in the US. I have pics of them with children playing around them safely and carrying their weekend warrior owners on trails or endurance races. I may never breed an Olympic champion but I will have a great deal of satisfaction without that being my main goal.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          LazyJ,
                          I just looked at your website and glanced at your young horses for sale. I dotn think your prices are anywhere unfair and I think you have them priced well.
                          I dont think anyone can buy quality in Europe, fly over, import, transport in US to location farm, etc and still be under what your asking in your price.
                          In my opinion, keep with the program and dont let it hurt your feelings that someone said that.
                          www.spindletopfarm.net
                          Home of Puerto D'Azur - 1998 NA 100 Day Test Champion
                          "Charcter is much easier kept than recovered"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'm pretty sure last time I checked the import price from Europe was about $8K USD, maybe $6K at best. So unless your "friend" is having people give him top quality youngsters for free, I HIGHLY doubt he is getting them in Europe and bringing them over for less or the same.

                            As YL pointed out, the top horses go for top prices, regardless. Maybe they look fancy on paper but I really don't think you are getting horses from Europe door to door for $8K. Don't lose faith, things will turn around and those who keep plugging away will be the ones with horses to sell in a couple years after everyone else has cut back or gotten out altogether.
                            Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. - William Jennings Bryan

                            http://www.halcyon-hill.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I've bought two horses from a particular breeder. I've kept in touch with her about where they are and what they are doing (and I bought both as weanlings and they are almost 9 and 10). My husband is a very good amateur photographer so I always have very good pictures, often under saddle. I've expressed interest in similarly bred babies. You know what? I've heard nothing back. And she's not the only breeder who has given me the cold shoulder in regards to in-utero babies.

                              So, just my frustration from the other side of the equation.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by superJ View Post
                                I've bought two horses from a particular breeder. I've kept in touch with her about where they are and what they are doing (and I bought both as weanlings and they are almost 9 and 10). My husband is a very good amateur photographer so I always have very good pictures, often under saddle. I've expressed interest in similarly bred babies. You know what? I've heard nothing back. And she's not the only breeder who has given me the cold shoulder in regards to in-utero babies.

                                So, just my frustration from the other side of the equation.
                                I am not quite sure what your complaint is. Are you saying she did not respond to emails inquiring about in utero purchases? Have you tried phoning? I would find it hard to believe you are getting the cold shoulder, but anything is possible, I guess! I respond to all inquiries, even the occasional odd one, and as far as I know my breeder friends all do the same. You sound like a breeder's dream for an owner so I would be really surprised if you were being ignored.
                                Roseknoll Sporthorses
                                www.roseknoll.net

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by YankeeLawyer View Post
                                  Are you saying she did not respond to emails inquiring about in utero purchases? Have you tried phoning?
                                  Yes, I am saying she hasn't responded to multiple attempts to contact her regarding potential purchases. And, I know that emails aren't entirely reliable, so I've called, Facebooked (she's very active there), etc. Nada. Zip. Nothing. So, I can only assume she doesn't want to sell me another horse. I'll move on to another breeder even though I *LOVE* her stock.

                                  Also, I realize that breeders are busy, but SOME acknowledgement of the pictures/updates would be nice. Even just a quick email with a "thanks for sending pictures." Otherwise, I feel like I'm just being a bother.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I happened to be thinking of this very topic while cleaning stalls today and the quote that YL used in this post:

                                    "But I also find that quality sells, and quality does not come cheap unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., seller under duress. or buyer is the next coming of Courtney K-D and offering to bring the baby along to GP)."

                                    I remember this quote from a previous thread as well...are they really selling?

                                    I have the best group of horses for sale I have ever bred, have used several different web sites (most of the inquiries come directly from my site) but have been asked to all but give them away. When I have responded that I have a lot invested in them (frozen semen, had to be done @ the vet's location, etc.) I have been told that "it is a buyer's market, there are a lot of others out there for a lot less than mine" and they move on.

                                    I used to price my horses a lot higher than they are priced right now and I felt that I got more serious buyers from doing so, far less tire kickers, but in this economy I don't feel that pricing them higher will help move them (and it hasn't), am I wrong?

                                    I, too, put a lot of thought into what I breed and my market is definitely the ammy market (my butt is the one that has to get on them if they have been started and don't sell right away). That said, I have sold several to professionals and overall, very few of the buyers REALLY care about the bloodlines like we, the breeders do. (There are exceptions, they know Donnerhall and the bigger names but they are not hung up on it).

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      ljshorses,
                                      I hope breeders like you do stay around, speaking from the other side. I think your German friend is "doing business". Tell him when he imports these great yearlings to bring some over for you too. Obviously he can get them cheaper than you can raise them. As for the comment
                                      "flavor of the month" stallion with no clear expectation of the result."
                                      Well the Germans were the creators of the stud du jour, so I imagine they are serving colt du jour over there too.
                                      Just a thought. There are many female breeders in NA. Most of the breeders around me are women, or wife/husband teams. The most active male owners are European immigrates. Being a female business owner I have read several books on women in business to try and understand “things” better. Women tend to be more self criticizing and more relationship orientated and often place approval above other forms of reward. This is not necessarily a weakness, in my mind but it needs to be recognized and put in perspective.
                                      I actually see the way the Germans do business as being more characteristically masculine and I, personally, tend to find the US and European markets to be examples of the different business approaches. The thing I see as typical of women is the self doubt, even when they are doing a great job. This is probably why many people feel more comfortable buying from Europeans as opposed to trusting our selves and other local breeders. I work in an industry with mostly men and I notice they are seldom wrong and what they do is the best, according to most of them anyway.
                                      WB’s are a relatively newer industry over here and I think it is doing great, with great people. The only thing that seems to be missing is some confidence and even the confidence to make mistakes.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by patch work farm View Post

                                        I used to price my horses a lot higher than they are priced right now and I felt that I got more serious buyers from doing so, far less tire kickers, but in this economy I don't feel that pricing them higher will help move them (and it hasn't), am I wrong?
                                        I don't know if there is any right or wrong, but I have had more success when mine are priced at the top of the market (when they are good) than when they are priced at what I would consider below market for the quality. I had my filly priced at what I think is the upper limits and have had several excellent offers for her but ultimately pulled her from the market on the advice of a trainer whom I trust, who wants me to keep her to develop.

                                        I also have had a lot of interest from hunter riders and trainers for my one baby that could go either way (dressage or hunters). That one I am quite sure will be sold by next spring. I did show H/J for a number of years though and know a lot of people - I can't really say most of that interest is in response to ads or even familiarity with my breeding program per se. They know me from showing.

                                        Generally I am more interested in the kind of home offered than the dollar amount (within reason). For the right home I am willing to work with the buyer to make it happen.

                                        I do know that horses are selling because I always have my eye out for good youngsters and have observed that all but a couple of the ones that I have really liked this year have sold. But these were top quality, top bloodlines, and fair but not firesale prices (eg 10K to 15K for a weanling, which I think is fairly strong in this market).
                                        Roseknoll Sporthorses
                                        www.roseknoll.net

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