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Concern raised over sharp drop in mare and foal numbers

PROJECTED figures for 2010 are showing a further fall in mare and foal numbers - sparking concerns that the bloodstock population may be declining in too dramatic a manner.

While fears about overproduction in the breeding world appear to be receding, Weatherbys' Head Of Stud Book Operations Paul Greeves yesterday spoke of the "real concern" posed by the figures produced by his company.

Ouija board and foal

The number of British-based mares that either died or retired increased by 66 per cent from 2007 to 2009

The number of active broodmares registered in Ireland has fallen by nearly 10 per cent between 2007 and 2009, from 20,700 to 18,750. Mares registered in Britain, which traditionally has a much smaller numerical breeding industry, have fallen by 5.4 per cent over the same period to 10,500.

Much greater changes have occurred in the number of mares being taken out of stud duties, which in Ireland has increased by 150 per cent in two years, from 1,200 in 2007 to 3,000 in 2009. The number of British registered mares that either died or were retired from stud has increased by 66 per cent from 750 in 2007 to 1,250 in 2009.

Conversely, the number of new Irish mare registrations has dropped by 41per cent from 2,700 in 2007 to 1,600 last year. New British registrations fell from 1,500 to 1,200 over the same period.

Based on sires' covering information received last year, Weatherbys estimate an Irish 2010 foal crop of 8,750 - down by 30.5 per cent since 2007. British foal numbers are forecast to fall from 5,840 in 2007 to 5,100 this year, a decline of 13 per cent.

Uncertainty over the health of the sales market - after significant declines in trade in 2008 - appears to have prompted many breeders to stop using commercially unattractive mares.

But according to Greeves, this presents British and Irish studs facing a "double whammy" of reduced income from stallion fees and also boarding charges for mares and foals.

He added: "We have gone from an era where overproduction was a real concern to one where foal and mare numbers have gone in completely the opposite direction. That does raise some concerns," said Greeves. "The decline has been so dramatic that it needs to be monitored very closely. In comparison to previous recessions such as the early 1990s and 1970s it has been much sharper this time.

"Whether what we are seeing is a healthy correction or a decline of real concern is an interesting topic for debate. The impact of what we are seeing will only really be known when this year's foals and next year's reach the commercial market place, and even after that when it will become clear whether the horse population can meet the requirements of the racecourse."





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