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30th October 2007

Fertility Rates Decline in Hunter Valley
Tara Madgwick – Tuesday, October 30, 2007    www.breednet.com.au

The outbreak of EI has had a profound and immediate effect on so many things in racing and breeding, but one more insidious and long-term effect is now being felt in the Hunter Valley with a general and widespread decline in fertility rates leaving many breeders despondent.

Chaos at the start of the season arising from travel restrictions and the detainment of shuttle stallions has now given way to new issues that are proving equally as vexing.

Many reliable mares that have proven good breeders in the past are failing to get in foal as they normally would, a situation undoubtedly related to EI and its effect on both mares and stallions.

It is generally accepted that when a stallion spikes a temperature through illness he may then go through a period some six weeks or so down the track where his fertility can be impaired.

It would seem that stallions having difficulties at the current time could well be suffering from this scenario and while it is in no way permanent, it does come at a bad time with major stallion farms under siege from broodmare owners attempting to clear the glut of mares held over from the delayed start to the season.

Despite the early congestion experienced at stallion farms when travel restrictions were lifted and the Purple Zone put in place, at least mares were getting in foal.

Hopes that the breeding season would get back on track were restored and a degree of optimism returned to breeders, however the current situation is proving demoralizing to say the least.

Mares missing at the moment will have to be covered again and will be competing for slots with mares that have foaled later in the season adding further congestion to a situation that ideally should have been stabilizing.

To think that these developments will not have some effect on the foal crop next year would be naïve and the ramifications are likely be felt for a long time into the future.

While the creation of a Purple Zone enabled breeding quite rightly to continue, it did also discourage many non-commercial (and some commercial located outside the zone) breeders from sending mares away from home for an extended and indefinite period.

A significant number of those breeders have elected to sit the season out and while they might not be breeding commercial sales horses, they are breeding racehorses that fill fields all over the country, not every racehorse comes with a fancy female pedigree.

For commercial breeders working within the Purple Zone we now have the spectre of reduced fertility and that means one of two things and neither of them good – less foals and/or later foals.

Less foals will obviously impact on major yearling sales in 2010,while later foals will also have a negative effect on the market.

There is no evidence to suggest later foals cannot become outstanding racehorses, just look at the former Woodlands Stud champion Lonhro, foaled on December 10, but they aren’t popular in sales catalogues that is a fact.

In a year where service fees were set at a record high on the back of bumper sales, some breeders are looking down the barrel of producing backward foals from these very expensive matings through no fault of their own, greatly lessening their chances of a premium return.

If there is one thing we’ve learned about EI it’s that the situation changes daily and all you can do is keep moving forward.

With thanks to Tara Madgwick and www.breednet.com.au