A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
As a breeder, I make my income off of horses. This means that if I am going to make a new horse, I need to be able to at minimum recover the money I invested into that horse. If I can't do that, then it would make more sense for me to go buy horses for strangers and give them away. (Plus it'd put a lot of horses into some good homes who deserve it). You see, many people think that you put the stallion with the mare, and get a "free" baby... but that's not the case for ethical breeders.
There are 2 basic ways to price a foal. You can cover THAT foal's cost, or you can cover the farm's costs. I'll explain that as I go along.
To cover the cost of the foal is pretty easy, but you have to actually calculate the costs of the foal. First, there are the vet bills. For many breeders, the first vet bill is checking out the mare before she is bred. Is she cycling yet? Does she have any uterine issues? It's a good idea to get a pre-foaling ultra sound done on the mare before you breed her. If you're breeding by AI, it's a must - so that you know when the mare needs to be inseminated. Cost for Ultra Sound - $36
From there, you get to look at the stud fee. If you own your own stallion, you still have to calculate this in. You see, if you're running a business, that stallion has to pay for himself, other wise your business is taking a loss. If you're running a hobby farm, sure, you can take this loss (by just calculating the cost of the foal, not the cost of running the farm, I did say this would come in later). You can either set this as a base cost, or calculate the cost of keeping the stallion for a year. I prefer the later. If you're breeding to an outside stud, the cost of the stud fee is simple.
So far, that baby has cost me $351, and isn't even conceived yet!
From there, you need 2 more ultra sounds (minimum) to determine pregnancy, and check for progression of the pregnancy. $72
Running total - $423
Your mare is going to need a set of pneumabort vaccinations at the 5th 7th and 9th months of gestation. This costs roughly $15 dollars each, so adds $45 to the cost of the foal. $468
In the last trimester, the mare will need additional grain/feed to give to the foal. For me, this is approximately $30/month for 3 months (and again, my costs are exceptionally lower than most). So add another $90 bucks, for a total of $558.
30 days before the foal is due, you should give the mare her full set of vaccines. This transfers the immunity to the baby, and is kinda like giving the new born its first vaccines. The 5 way costs about $25, rabies costs $17, we skip West Nile because it can cause complications but do give a dewormer around this time which costs $9 dollars. So we add another $51 bucks to the cost of the foal, for a running total of $609.
In the last 2 weeks of gestation, I like to give my mares alfalfa for the increased calcium. I use roughly half a bale a day per mare, at $14 per bale (one thing that isn't cheap here!). That's about 7 bales of alfalfa that costs me about $98 bucks. Total for foal: $797
Then the big day arrives, but the baby's costs aren't done! Once the foal is born I need to give a tetanus antitoxin (because the tetanus virus is native in our soil) and do an IgG test to be sure the baby got enough colostrum. That's $18 for the tetanus, and $28 for the IgG test, costing me $46 bucks on the big day. Baby now costs about $843 just to get on the ground.
This means that if I sell a foal for less than $1203 dollars, my business just lost money. That's equivalent to the average person taking a job that pays $50 and spending $75 in gas to get there. Few people would do it, but so often this is exactly what breeders do! No wonder people say you can't make money in horses!
I didn't even include the costs of the farm itself. Mortgage, utilities, insurance, horse insurance, wages and such add on top of all of that. Since my farm has many streams of income, I am able to pay those bills through things like lessons, training, and sales of our Second Chance horses, so don't add them in.
But lets think about it. We all sell horses to make a PROFIT. This means that if I sell the above baby for just $1500 dollars, I've only made $300 bucks for a YEAR of work. That comes out to merely $25 bucks per month. That doesn't even pay for my groceries, let alone the web hosting, cell phone, driving miles to and from the stores, and other things that the average person does. And this is only talking about the cost of getting the baby born.
This means that I ask a nice round number for suckling foals, currently it is $2500 per foal. That covers the expenses both direct and indirect, and allows me to keep doing this for one more year. I only breed the number of horses that I can afford to keep (because not everything sells) so that I am not pressured to lose my shirt (and home) in a passion that I love so deeply.
My personal opinion though, is that if you can't sell the horse for the amount it costs to make it, why are you breeding it? If it isn't worth its own expenses, than is it really worth adding it into this world? You see this all the time on Craigs List... horses offered for a few hundred bucks, from a breeder who is going to just keep pumping them out. If you want to be a quality horse breeder, you have to know what your foal costs to make, and be willing to pay for it!
Yes, this is a risky business. Not all horses are going to sell for their asking prices, and not all births will be a simple one. The profit margin of each foal born should have enough padding in it to cover the unexpected, and to pay the breeder for the WORK they put into that foal. We spend time socializing and training them, and while we enjoy every second of it, we still can't just give it away for years on end.
Unlike most breeders, I make my entire living off the horses. I have no outside job to bring in cash for the bad months. I have to calculate the cost of everything, and produce enough profit to protect against the "what ifs". I am not rich, nor likely will I ever be! I work long (but rewarding) hours, and do my best to balance the hard calculations against those brown eyes each spring.
So before you gasp at the cost of a horse listed for sale, stop and think about what you are paying for. My foals will come to you bathing, clipping, loading, standing, easy to catch, and with no known health problems (unless disclosed). They are well socialized, and have known nothing but love for their entire life. We breeders want to make it as affordable as possible, but we can't give them away and keep caring for our horses with the same level of care that buyers want.
But sadly, making more horses isn't something that is free. To do it right, you have to spend money, and you need to know how much money you really are spending.
Posted by Pinzgauer at 11:48 AM
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I evaluated countless horses over the last few years. Each evaluation takes about 4 hours to complete and write up. At the peak, we were receiving 10 horses a day (or so) to review. I began to get further and further behind schedule. While this was going on, I was also trying to manage my own farm, and getting behind on that as well. A typical day here was roughly 18 hours of work, with an hour of relaxation, and then a few hours of sleep before I started it all again. The further I got behind, the more I worked to catch up, and the less time I spent with my own family and pets.
I've been doing this - not quite as intensely, but still - for 5 years now with out a break from it. I've been on call all day, all night, every day. The idea of going to a movie meant advanced planning, lets not even talk about getting out of town for a day or 2! And so, as of January 28th, I took a month of vacation... from the SDHR.
The upside is, that I again have time to write. I have a few topics that I plan to put out there, and hopefully some of you will enjoy and learn from them. Since foaling season is coming up, you can best that a good part of my topics will be based on the horse business again.
So sit back, and prepare for a new and consistent stream of blathering from me. From discussing the daily activities of the farm, to the business side (tomorrow's post is how to price a foal) I have lots lined up, and am ready to start getting on my soap box again.
Posted by Pinzgauer at 1:25 PM