MRLS Economic Impact: $336-Million

More than 30% of the anticipated 2002 Thoroughbred foal crop in Kentucky has been wiped out due to mare reproductive loss syndrome, and the economic cost to the state from losses suffered by all horse breeds will total nearly $336 million, according to a study commissioned by Gov. Paul Patton and conducted by the University of Louisville's Department of Equine Business.

The survey of 1,024 breeders and breeding farm operations examined six different breeds of horses, but the results showed Thoroughbred breeders suffered the heaviest economic losses, accounting for $300.5 million of the total, or 89%. An estimated 516 Thoroughbreds died due to MRLS in 2001, and 2,998 pregnancies for 2002 were lost, representing 30.5% of the approximate number of foals expected to be born in 2002. The losses from 2000 represented 5.3% of the anticipated foal crop. An earlier estimate from The Jockey Club projected a 2002 foal crop loss of 20%.

The study estimated each lost Thoroughbred foal to have an economic impact of $85,142. The estimate includes a portion of the mare cost, the stud fee, weanling cost, and yearling cost. The losses were spread out over four years, from 2000, when this year's foals were conceived, to 2003, when next year's foals will be sold as yearlings. The study estimates losses of $15.2 million in 2000, $109.4 million in 2001, $124.8 million in 2002, and $51.1 million in 2003.

Among those affected by the loss, the study said, are horse breeders, stallion owners, horse farm operations, horse sale companies, horse sale agents, veterinarians, farriers, and equine transport providers. The study's executive summary made no mention of lost tax revenue from the sale of stallion seasons or horses sold at public auction. Also not mentioned were anticipated losses suffered by hay and feed suppliers, tack shops, and other businesses, or the impact a smaller foal crop will have on the state's racing industry.

While the study did say a reduced supply of foals could result in higher prices for those yearlings to sell in 2003, it also mentioned that MRLS could have an economic impact for several years to come. "Additional losses may also occur as a result of the scare over MRLS," the study read, "which could result in a reduction of mares sent to Kentucky in 2002 or in lower values for mares bred in 2001. The 2001-2003 losses cited...are based on a single 2001 'event.' Should MRLS re-occur in 2002, i.e., not be a one-time event, the losses could be much more dramatic over a longer period of time."

The Quarter Horse and Paint Horse breeders suffered the second-highest losses at $14 million. The study estimates 550 foals from those breeds died from MRLS in 2001, or 22.1% of the anticipated crop size, but just 409 lost pregnancies for 2002, a 16.4% decline.

Click Here to See Executive Summary