Breeding Sheds All Set to Rally

By David Schmitz and Kristin Ingwell
So far it looks as if many Kentucky breeding sheds will stay open as long as they have clients who want to book their mares...or until the stallions must head into quarantine for trips to Southern Hemisphere locations. Those trips usually take place in early August and require a two-week quarantine prior to travel.

Representatives of Crestwood Farm, Jonabell, Mill Ridge, Old Frankfort Stud, Pin Oak, and Wafare Farm, said their operations would consider going beyond the traditional July 3 closing date, and possibly into early August, depending on demand. One stallion manager was overheard saying "If they don't get in foal, we don't get paid."

Alice Chandler, who owns Mill Ridge with her husband, John, said "the first thing that went through my mind was the first of August. I think we'll have to offer it, but I wouldn't recommend it. We are going to take preference over mares who have lost their foals over maiden mares."

However, Gus Koch of Claiborne Farm said the farm is planning to stick to its July 3 closing date. "We'll be celebrating the Fourth of July," he said.

Terry Nickell, who manages Wafare, said there hasn't been a formal decision made yet, but "we've always accommodated our clients, and if the shed needs to stay open an extra day or month, that's what we'll do."

A number of farm employees said they anticipate a bottle neck and high demand for breeding slots when mares again start cycling after losing early pregnancies.

Jim Plemmons of Old Frankfort Farm said, "I think this is the most opportune time to breed because if it is a microtoxin (causing abortions), it has run its course."

Plemmons said although his stallions have not shown any effects of the current illness, which has been illustrated mainly in foals and fetuses, he has put his stallions on the preventative feed supplement and is limiting their pasture time from six to one or two hours per day.

The folks at Crestwood are going to do what they're done for years: Let the market decide. "We usually (wait and) let people shut our shed down," said Marc McLean of Crestwood. "We don't have a deadline."

Clifford Barry, manager of Pin Oak, said the farm will do whatever it takes to ensure breeder satisfaction. "It looks like it's going to be a tough couple months, and we have to accommodate the breeders," he said. "Stallion contracts, with the exception of those for some of the highest priced stallions, call for a live foal. It's up to the breeders if they want their mares covered late in the breeding season."

James G. (Jimmy) Bell of Jonabell said the foal loss has given him little time to think of anything else. "We've been so focused trying to figure out what to do with these mares, we haven't given much thought of what to do (about breeding them back). We've got May and June, so we're going to see where we are."

On breeding up to July 15, he said, "I don't really see many breeders doing that. You're going to turn around and have a very late foal. You're going to have to give up a year sooner or later. I don't know if this is the year or not."

A number of other breeding farms have not yet decided whether or not to keep the doors of their breeding sheds open beyond July 3.