Everyone likes a deal and mare owners are no exception. Stud fees are steep for proven sires. That drives hopeful breeders to seek discounted fees, and there are many ways to find them. Some stallion owners offer “free” breedings to attract more mares. Some farms have two-for-one specials offering customers who breed to one of their premium sires the option to breed another mare to a junior stallion at half price, or even for free, just to get a foal crop out there. To build a reputation and attract higher quality crosses, stud owners may offer substantial discounts for World Champion or Reserve World Champion mares. Stallions are also entered in charity or futurity auctions where mare owners may be lucky enough to secure the winning bid at a much lower than market price.
But, when a mare owner finds a free or generously discounted breeding, how do they know if it’s a good deal? Foals are certainly cute and breeding can have rewards beyond monetary gains. However, like any investment, mare owners should look at the cost/benefit analysis: how much do you spend and what’s the value at the other end?
Breeding Economics 101
Breeding requires a substantial investment in both time and money. On top of stud fees, there may be farm fees, chute fees, and shipping and handling fees on the front end. Then, there are veterinary fees for insemination and not every mare gets pregnant every cycle. According to the AAEP, pregnancy rates of mares bred with cooled or frozen shipped semen are dependent upon three variables: the fertility of the mare, the fertility of the semen, and the expertise of the veterinarian coordinating the insemination. The average conception rate with artificial insemination is 60%, which means it typically takes two to three cycles. Therefore, you double or triple your veterinary costs just attempting to get your mare pregnant.
Still want to show your mare while getting a baby from her? Then you need to do an embryo transfer and pay for a recipient mare. After confirming pregnancy, there are additional expenses surrounding nutrition, vaccinations, and health checks. There are costs associated with foaling out, whether you keep the mare at home or send her to another facility. Once the foal is on the ground, there is care, feeding, and training to consider. If you’re not showing them in hand, you have two to three more years before you will be in the show pen with them. One can easily invest $15,000-$20,000 in producing a horse, and more in training, before ever getting to that first show. Those costs lead many mare owners to think that saving $1,000 to $2,000 on a stud fee will turn them a profit. However, can they expect the same price for their product? Do you get value out the money and effort you put in?