2014 ASBA CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
It is with pleasure that I deliver my report for 2014/15.
Since our 2014 meeting, a substantial effort has gone into further developing and expanding our international connections. In May, an ASBA delegate attended the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders conference in Christchurch, at which the top administrators set out plans and strategies to grow the harness racing industry.
It provided an opportunity to liaise on areas of common ground, such as technological advancements in artificial breeding. We greatly value the attendance of the New Zealand breeders body at our annual meetings.
In February this year, ASBA had three delegates at the World Trotting Conference in Sydney, which, as a direct result of our 2014 meeting, included an Agenda item on Embryo Transfer.
At the invitation of the Conference, ASBA also submitted a paper on artificial breeding. It was pleasing to see that our recommendations for ET have been handed on to an international committee. It was also an opportunity to establish contact with Canadian Breeders organisations and influential breeders in the USA.
Our attendance at the World Conference greatly improved the visibility of ASBA, and strengthened our position as a key industry body of substance and standing. My thanks go to our delegates representing us so capably in Christchurch and Sydney.
There have been some noteworthy achievements for ASBA in the last year. In the face of massive prospective increases in fees and charges for the import and export of horses and genetic material, especially transported semen, we successfully intervened by direct contact with the relevant Minister and Government Department. This led to the formation of a working party, involving our Deputy Chair, John Campbell, which has recommended both practical efficiency measures, and a fairer charging basis, substantially cutting back the foreshadowed fee increases.
ASBA has had a priority mission to maximise the number of foals, and, to ensure the highest possible pool of racing stock. Three specific initiatives made further progress.
Firstly, to minimise wastage, work has further progressed to ensure all those employed in the breeding industry are properly trained and accredited. Queensland is evaluating the course material developed in Victoria, and HRA has commissioned the University of Newcastle to formulate protocols and standards, especially for semen transportation. If such measures increase production by a couple of per cent, it will be worthwhile.
Secondly, the initiative to prolong the breeding season has been strongly marketed through the Festive Season Stallion Service Specials, which saw the participation of no less than twelve studs and thirty stallions.
Thirdly, measures to more adequately cater for fillies and mares have been strongly in evidence. Queensland has now introduced a Q-bred mares credit scheme, in a similar vein as SAMOS and EPONA. Mares races, for all classes, are included in race programming, in some cases involving sponsorship from State Breeders bodies. This has augmented available stock for race programs, and added to the value of filly foals.
Our on-line capability has been upgraded by a contemporary web-site which, for the first time, included stallion guides for both Australia and New Zealand. Our thanks go to Harness Breeders Victoria, and HRA , for their assistance with the web-site.
The yearling sale averages have once again been good, increasing slightly on 2014, no doubt aided by the ever diminishing supply of stock. Given the dominance of leading stallions in black type races, the sale strength is pronounced at the top end of the market, with the lower end remaining soft.
Despite some very good work by the national breeders body, the breeding industry shows no signs of an upturn.
While, at face value, sale averages were pleasing, few new entrants were evident. It is clear, that as welcome and beneficial as the State based breeding incentive schemes are, they do little more than to assist current players to stay in the game. The outflux of breeders continues to exceed the influx, which will be hard to stabilise, until measure are adopted to rekindle public engagement in the sport. We therefore applaud all initiatives, such as Country Cups in New South Wales and Victoria, and Grass Track Racing in Queensland, which, potentially, refreshes the audience, so vital for our future.
My thanks go to all State bodies, and to the office bearers and delegates to ASBA who have made committed efforts to sustain the breeding industry.