Planning Ahead for Horse Breeding
Breeding farm managers suggest steps to take now that can save time and money later.
October 26, 2018
From The American Quarter Horse Journal
Whether you are breeding 100 mares or just one, breeding farm managers recommend planning early for next year’s season. By thoroughly researching your favorite stallions and making your selection in the fall, you increase your chances of booking the stallion you really want.
Although not all stallions advertise a limited book, certain months can fill up quickly for both on-farm and shipped semen breeding. There are also mare-management tips that make the breeding farm’s job easier.
Amy Gumz of Gumz Farms in Morganfield, Kentucky, advises picking in the fall - November is definitely not too early - to assure that you get a contract with the stallion you feel will best complement your mare. Amy suggests talking to the stallion’s owners or representatives at shows like the All American Quarter Horse Congress or the AQHA World Championship Show.
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“Many stallions will have only a limited number of breedings available, especially shipped semen breedings,” Amy says. “If you want to book to a particular stallion, timing is critical.” In addition to booking early, Amy says mare care can have a big effect on the success of getting a mare bred, especially if you want an early foal. She recommends performing a late-fall pregnancy check. Open or early foaling mares should be put under lights to help them cycle early in the spring. “Without artificial lighting, most open or foaling mares will not ovulate until mid-spring,” Amy says. “We start our mares under lights on December 1. A good rule of thumb is to use a 200-watt bulb, and you must be able to read a newspaper from any and all corners of the stall.”
Mike Hay of Pilot Knob Quarter Horses emphasizes the need to book early, especially if you want to breed your mare in a particular month. In addition, early warning helps prepare the breeding farm for any special needs your mare might have. The farm can be prepared to foal out your mare, provide her a heated stall or deal with any breeding problems.
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Mike also gives tips on purchasing futurity breedings during the fall. Since futurity breeding contracts are developed by the futurity, and not necessarily the stallion owner, Mike says inquiring about any additional charges might save you money. If you are purchasing the breeding with the intent to ship the semen, Mike says futurity breeding contracts don’t always cover extra costs like container deposits, lab or collection fees and shipping fees. Ask questions early and often. And Mike says to write down the answers and make sure you have them included in the contract.
Lights, Lights, Lights
Joe Jeane, previously the owner and breeding manager of Down the Rail Performance Prospects,, suggests putting mares under lights the day after Thanksgiving. Typically, mares start cycling 45 to 50 days after beginning a light program. Be providing 16 hours of light a day, mares are ready to start cycling January 24, just prior to beginning breeding season on February 1. In most cases, stalled mares have lights that come on by timer at 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.
According to Joe, many people mistakenly think that if their facilities are not conducive to stalling horses under lights, the program won’t work for them.
“One time, we had more mares than we had stalls,” Joe says. “We set up lights around a set of pens we had at the end of a paddock. We would feed them in the pen until dark, keep them under lights until 10 p.m., and then the night watchman would turn them out in the paddock. Those mares cycled at the same time the stalled mares did.”
Joe also emphasizes monitoring the mares’ body score. Mares that are too fat often have more foaling problems than mare that are kept in optimum trim. “Maybe it’s my cattle background,” Joe says. “But I hate to see mares that are too fat. Of course, they can be too thin, as well. You want to keep them in good shape.”