Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 April 2018

Breeding strategy key to making money on foals

Breeders must target their market and start with a top-quality mare

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

The clock is ticking and breeders across the country are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2013 crop of foals. For the majority, the foaling process will be natural and uneventful and it is hoped that the foals will grow and thrive over the coming months.

As soon as these foals hit the ground, however, their owners will be planning for their siblings set to follow in 2014.

The past year has been a difficult one for livestock of all kinds, with ever-increasing feed costs, atrocious weather and very little spring grass to be seen yet. The economic climate has affected the finances of buyers too, with all purchasers anxious to secure the best possible value for their money.

This year more than ever, breeders need to plan their breeding strategy in minute detail. The days of breeding without a plan are behind us.

At regional sport horse seminars held over the past year, dozens of breeding experts have given their own accounts of how to breed sound, attractive, athletic, but most importantly, profitable foals.

The common theme was that breeders must target their market and start with a top-quality mare. Their advice is applicable to all breeders, whether you are aiming for Olympic showjumping, four-star eventing, a sound and sensible riding club or hunting horse.

Before this year's crop of foals hits the ground, take some time to assess your broodmares and their potential.

Does your mare have the ability, conformation and temperament that you want to see in a foal? Have you chosen a stallion that will complement her? Are there buyers for the foal that she will produce?

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It may be worth asking a knowledgeable and experienced breeder to assess your stock with a colder and more clinical eye than your own.

Perhaps you could join a horse breeding discussion group to listen to other breeders and their strategies. Another alternative may be to enter your mare in the Horse Sport Ireland mare inspections this autumn. On completion of the inspection procedure, every mare owner is given a 'linear profile', detailing the positive and negative traits of each mare.

Today's special breeding feature includes some excellent advice on breeding management and nutrition for the lactating mare from Teagasc equine specialist Wendy Conlon and nutritionist Nia O'Malley from Connolly's Red Mills, which we hope will help all breeders in the coming weeks and months.

Also in the coming weeks, the Farming Independent will feature the stallions approved in the Horse Sport Ireland stallion inspections, which took place in Cavan Equestrian Centre last week.

Irish Independent