2013 ASBA CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
The breeding industry continues to confront challenges to maintain both economic stability and a positive outlook going forward.
Foaling numbers as at 2012/13 continued their downward trend, with implications spreading beyond financial considerations for those invested at all levels in the breeding industry, to the wider harness racing industry, where a shortfall of racing stock became clearly evident.
Given that the breeding industry is totally dependent on public support, especially wagering, the inability to program full and balanced fields, which impacts negatively on wagering, makes any revival more difficult.
We, in the breeding industry, have been across this deteriorating position for many years. We correctly pointed to the implications of downgrading support for breeding initiatives, such as was most apparent in Western Australia and Queensland.Although it has taken the supply of racing product to reach unacceptably low levels, the centrality of breeding to the harness racing industry has now been recognised, and rear guard initiatives kicked into gear.
Victoria started the ball rolling with the Vicbred Platinum program, as a major incentive to breeders. NSW introduced the Breeders Challenge Blue, designed to bring mares back into production. Queensland revamped the Q-Bred Scheme, adding Breeders Bonuses for the first time. South Australia pioneered a broodmares credit scheme, whilst WA regenerated interest in fillies and mares through the very successful Epona mares bonus scheme.
In addition, HRA got right behind an ASBA push to foster more late season matings, through the “Festive Season Stallion Specials” involving twelve studs and forty two stallions, which, thus far appears successful, with further upside for future seasons.
These measures, which are hard–nosed, practical, and of tangible benefit, are starting to bear fruit. Yearling Sales figures are showing some strength, with averages being up and some records being broken; halting the downward slide. No doubt the demand upswing is now being influenced by falling supply.
The stud business continues to be difficult. At the high end, patronage has held firm, and even improved in patches. However, the mid and lower range remains soft, as it has done in recent years. We remain hopeful that foalings from this season will not go further into decline. Both the national and State bodies will draw some satisfaction that their efforts to shore things up, are having some practical effect.
It is pleasing that some ASBA initiatives have gained traction. To combat foal wastage, estimated at 900 foals annually, Rod Pollock, in conjunction with Gary Cairn, HRA and the Victorian Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE, have constructed a Certificate Course in AI Breeding. This is very substantial work. The next phase will be to move all involved in the transported semen chain to full accreditation. More foals could result from higher skills and compliance.
Rod has also done a great job for us in in maintaining our web site with up to date information of the Association’s activities.
Action to include “Bonus” money as official prizemoney has received HRA endorsement. This will reflect more favourably on the attractiveness of standardbred ownership and therefore, we hope, further boost interest and demand. An improved Lease Form, piloted in Victoria is now available for national, uniform adoption. Centralised Breeding Administration remains on the agenda.
Arising from the increase in import fees, grants are being made available to the States to support breeding in various ways; from increases to “first win bonus” through to additional support for fillies and mares. Taken in conjunction with other measures already mentioned, the landscape for breeders has not been brighter for many years.
We continue to have input as a Peak Body to national issues, such as biosecurity, assessment of new legislation and taxation reform; where we very much favour standardisation with New Zealand Tax law. Any measures to encourage smaller players back into the game will show dividends.
We stand 100% behind all measures to revive and reinvigorate harness racing. The Country Cups concept, the South Australian Cups carnival, grass track racing in QLD and all the novelty events, such as Monte trotting and the “Humbletonian”; anything to generate interest and broader appeal.
Our efforts to foster and enhance co-operation with NZ breeders has clearly paid off; not only through more regular dialogue and consultation, but by visiting each other’s country for direct, face to face problem solving. The attendance of John Mooney, Chairman and Kiely Buttell, Executive Manager of NZSBA today, is testament to that.
ASBA, through direct financial assistance and contributions from members, ensure that two excellent publications, in Trackbred and the Australasian Standardbred Stallion Guide, continue as showpieces of the breeding industry, for which we feel justifiably proud.
My thanks go to the entire ASBA leadership group for a very productive and satisfying year. We have made real progress on a number of fronts. Our collective efforts have attempted to draw “a line in the sand”, which we are now defending with renewed energy. With some positive signs now evident, I’m looking forward to more fruitful period ahead.
Les Camarda, President