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Breeding contracts and "breeding season"

From: Betty

Dear Jessica; Many Kudos to you for putting out everyday and more answers needed to be addressed by a professional since as you. Several times an answer of yours firms up and adds new light to problems that has to be answered.

Right now I am in a dispute as to what is the standard time period for a commercial breeding. In other words, if you purchased a breeding at the end of March wouldn't it be reasonable to expect the breeder to be in the process of already breeding horses or at least have had the stallion's semen checked for viability for shipping either cooled or frozen. Having been a breeder the normal time for breeding for me and any other breeder that I knew was February thru June or possible July.

This other person claims it is May to whenever. Could you please clear this up?

Thank you Betty

Hi Betty! Thanks for the kind words.

I can certainly understand your frustration, but alas, every stallion owner and every stallion is different, and so is every stallion service contract, and there's no uniformity in breeding seasons, either - at least, not outside the racing industry and some parts of the show industry. There really is no "standard time period" - each stallion service contract, whether the breeding involves live cover, cooled semen, or frozen semen, is unique to that breeder. It's even quite possible that a breeder standing five stallions might have a different contract for each stallion.

Age, fitness, fertility, how well his semen ships cooled, how well (or whether) it freezes - these are all elements that will factor into an individual stallion's breeding contract.

There are other elements as well. The stallion lives at a farm, and farms require coordinated, practical management. How many mares live on the farm, how many have been shipped there to be bred, how many arrive every month? Are all the mares bred by AI, or are some bred by live cover? Everything that takes place at ANY farm involves facilities, staff, and management practices. A farm that stands a stallion - or two, or five - is no exception to this rule. Facilities, staff, and management practices all have to be kept up to the mark in order to maximize results (pregnant mares!) and minimize the physical risk to the mares and the stallion. Then there are other considerations such as the physical environment, including the climate!

Anyway, back to your specific question. The short answer is that a breeding season is whatever the stallion's owner says it is. You may not like the terms of the breeding contract, but as long as there IS a breeding contract, at least you'll know the rules and the dates in advance.

In this hemisphere alone, we have quite a lot of variety. I know quite a few stallion owners, and just for fun, after reading your question, I e-mailed them to ask what their various contracts specify in re breeding season "opening" and "closing" dates. Here's what came back to me:

1 Jan- 31 Aug
1 Feb - 30 June
1 Feb - 1 September
15 Feb - 15 June
15 Feb- 15 July
15 March - 15 July
1 May - 31 July
1 May - 31 August
15 May - 15 September

Some don't give a specific "closing" date, but say that the breeding season in any given year will end between two specific dates (e.g., 1 July and 10 July).

Racing rules and the demands of early showing - "futurities" and suchlike - encourage breeders to begin the season as early as possible each year. Unfortunately, this means breeding horses at a time of year when they wouldn't normally breed, and when the weather, the daylight hours, the presence of grass for grazing, and the normal seasonal hormonal schedules of both mares AND STALLIONS are all working against breeders instead of working for them. It's possible to find breeding seasons that begin with the new year, but if stallion owners and mare owners want to work WITH Mother Nature instead of fighting her (and many of them DO want to work with her, because it's much more efficient - natural, practical, and economical), they're more likely to think in terms of breeding seasons that run from May through August or even September.

Something else you should consider: A stallion's breeding schedule, whether by live cover, on-site AI, shipped cooled semen, or frozen semen, may change from year to year, for any number of reasons. Weather, health, and age can all cause changes in a stallion's sperm numbers or quality, and it's possible that, for example, a single collection from Stallion A at age ten might be divisble into four or more shipments, whereas a single collection from the same stallion, ten years on, might be divisible only into TWO shipments. So even if you've bred to a particular stallion in the past, be sure to check his CURRENT contact - the terms, dates, collection days, etc., may have changed since the last time you used him for one of your mares.

I hope that you and the breeder can come up with an arrangement that worked for both of you, and that you will end up with a wonderful foal.


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