It sounds perfect: You own a mare?especially a mare whom you’ve enjoyed in competition or in years of trail riding?and you think you should breed her before she becomes too old. “Wouldn’t it be neat to have another horse just like her?” you dream.
But it’s nowhere near that simple. Breeding your mare is going to cost you real money, possibly a ton of money?and perhaps much more emotionally?just to get a live foal who can stand properly. And breeding isn’t cloning?while the foal may be similar to your mare, he or she won’t be an exact copy.
Breeding your mare and producing one or more foals is a commitment similar to raising your kids. And while a foal shouldn’t be as expensive as your kids?because you won’t have to send him to college, and he won’t get arrested?he’s not going to be cheap. Raising a horse from conception to maturity is a commitment of expertise, time and money, over a period of years.
That’s why you need to seriously evaluate yourself before you evaluate your mare and consider her potential mates. How do you think your life will likely evolve over the next four or five years? Are you planning to have your own children? Are you going to go back to school to further your career? Do you think you might move or become more deeply involved in your career? Or is your job?and, thus, your finances?in jeopardy? Do you have a sick relative who’ll need your care? What will happen if they die?
Obviously we can’t foresee how our lives might change unexpectedly, but if you think a major life change might be coming in the next few years, this is probably not the time to breed your beloved mare.
We’re going to talk about both up front prices and potential fees over the next five or six years.
LET’S EVALUATE COSTS.
Let’s start with the stud fee, which will vary?depending on the breed, the stallion’s performance and produce record and his age?from $250 to $5,000. “Breed the best you have to the best you can afford, and hope for the best” is the timeworn Thoroughbred breeders’ mantra.
If you really have a mare who’s worth breeding, the stud fee is not the best place to save $500. Don’t just pick the stallion down the road or a friend’s stallion because he’s free or $150. This is going to be an expensive, challenging process, and you should avoid producing an unsound non-athlete because you were cheap right at the start.
Besides, the stud fee is only the beginning of your expenses. To get your mare in foal, you need a good reproductive veterinarian, who can closely follow your mare’s ovulation and be there when the semen arrives and she’s ready. If his or her practice doesn’t allow this kind of quick response to the right moment, you may as well just flush the semen down the toilet. If you don’t have such a reliable veterinarian, then you’ll need to send her to a reproduction clinic.
If the veterinarian comes to you, you’ll pay for a farm call and more (at least $250), plus pay the stallion manager a collection fee and shipping fee (likely $100 to $150). If you send the mare away, you’ll pay a daily fee (around $25 per day), plus a fee for their breeding services, on top of shipped-semen fees.
Depending on how long your mare stays at the clinic?which will depend on how well she ovulates?it’s often actually cheaper and more efficient to go the clinic route.
OK, she’s been inseminated, and now you get to pay for the mare’s pre-natal care. You’ll have to have your veterinarian ultrasound her uterus at least once, about 30 days after insemination, to confirm her pregnancy. And you’ll probably want to do it again at least once (at three months and perhaps at six months). That’s at least $100 per visit. Then you’ll want to add some hormones and a supplement or two to her diet, depending on your grass and hay quality. Add several hundred more dollars to the cost.
It will be best for her, and likely cheaper for you, if she can live in a grass-filled pasture of at least two acres, so she’ll have plenty of forage and room to roam, to help her keep fit. If all you can offer her is a 12- by 24-foot run, you should think carefully about breeding her.
DELIVERY. Don’t get cocky if you’ve made it through 11 months of gestation without a major assault on your wallet. Delivery certainly means another vet call, even if the mare does it on her own and she and the foal appear healthy, to check the foal’s health and to be certain that the mare has passed all of the placenta.
If delivery has complications or the foal is sick, well, you’re likely looking at thousands of dollars. Here are just a few of the possible complications: the foal has a kidney or other infection. the foal has lax fetlocks that touch ground or other limb abnormalities, or he or she simply “fails to thrive.” If your foal and mare have to go to a neo-natal clinic, expect each day to cost $500 to $1,000.
The potential for “broodmare colic” (usually the colon flips over into the empty space where the foal was) is always lurking, and surgery could cost $5,000 to $10,000, and leave you with no mare when it’s over.
If you lose the mare in delivery or later?and this isn’t as rare as you’d hope?you’ll have to bottle-raise the foal. Can you bottle-feed a foal every two hours? Or do you have contacts to find a nurse mare? Sometimes you can only find a broodmare who’s not lactating to be the nurse mare, and then you’ll have to bottle-feed the foal while you chemically induce lactation in the mare. Again, we’re talking thousands of dollars over three to six months, because the lactation medication is an expensive series of daily injections for 30-plus days while the foal drinks down a bucket of powdered milk replacer ($95 for a 40-pound bucket) every four or five days.
WEANING. Do you have a way to separate the two of them? They don’t have to be miles apart, but mare and foal shouldn’t be in adjoining paddocks or stalls. So, if your four-acre farmette only has one paddock or two adjoining ones, you’ll want to build something new or send one of them elsewhere.?
Be prepared to spend $100 to $500 a month to board a young horse. It’s best if it has a real pasture, with grass and some terrain, for the foal’s growth and physical development.
If you find an inexpensive place for the foal to live, you can usually take a financial breather for two to four years, depending on your plans. Then that horse will need to be trained.
BOTTOM LINE. Producing a foal is a serious investment, for you and your mare, and unless your mare has something to pass on and you have the financial and other resources to care for the horse you’re adding to America’s 9.2 million horses, it will be far more cost-effective for you to buy one of those horses instead of adding to the population. See also Evaluate the mare and stallion.
Article by John Strassburger, Horse Journal Performance Editor.