Thoroughbred Breeders Australia has issued the following update on key issues relating to the industry.
Racing Australia Ownership Reforms
As many of you will be aware, last year Racing Australia effectively proposed bringing the breeding industry under the remit of racing by suggesting that the owners of all horses come under the rules of racing from the point a foal is registered with the Stud Book. The exact wording of the proposal was:
The time at which an owner registers a horse under the Rules of Racing is to be brought forward so that when a horse is accepted into the Stud Book (upon parentage verification), the owner(s) of the horse is/are required to register the horse with RISA. At this point, the horse becomes registered and the owner(s) is/are bound by the Rules of Racing.
The view of the board of TBA is that this would give Racing Australia total control over the breeding industry. They could implement any rule relating to breeding without any consultation or advice from breeders and this would then become enforceable, with any transgression punishable by the stewards.
Our opinion is that Racing Australia, as well as the PRA’s like Racing NSW and Racing Victoria, are set up to run racing, not breeding. In almost every state, breeders have no say in who is put on these boards, and nor are breeders given any representation on the Racing Australia board, despite the fact that Racing Australia now owns the Stud Book.
The reasons articulated as being behind this push to regulate breeders were increasing transparency of ownership of thoroughbreds before they enter the racing system and preventing gene doping in horses.
We have voiced our objection strongly over the past six months at a number of meetings. As a result, rather than try to implement this proposal at their September board meeting RA have directed their directors Frances Nelson QC (South Australian representative and deputy chairman of Racing Australia) and Des Gleeson (Tasmanian representative) to hold further consultation with us.
So far we have had two meetings with Ms Nelson and Mr Gleeson and the discussions have been productive, with Ms Nelson making the effort to understand our concerns on the issue. We have made the point that our legal advice is that RA does not have authority (given their rules have to be enforced by the state racing boards which are limited by statute) to govern the breeding industry.
We asked, on the assumption RA does have this legal authority, whether a separate set of rules, specific to the breeding industry, focused on welfare, could be drawn up in consultation with breeders, as this could potentially provide an outcome that may be 3 acceptable to both sides. We made clear that, from our perspective, this should be done through the Stud Book rather than the authority of the PRAs.
Subsequent to the second meeting, Ms Nelson said RA were looking into a developing a set of rules relating to breeding which would be separate from the Rules of Racing. Ms Nelson also said they were considering whether these could be adopted and implemented by the Australian Stud Book, though they needed to get legal advice on this matter. We will continue to keep you informed as this dialogue continues.
Declaration of Ownership Details at Sales
Email from TBA President Basil Nolan sent on December 18 to all vendors selling at the 2016 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale.
We write to you in regard to a new initiative that Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) has agreed with the country’s major sales companies in relation to transparency of ownership of horses going through the ring.
During the 2016 yearling sales both Magic Millions and Inglis will provide a service whereby vendors can register the ownership details of the horses they have for sale in the auctions. This information will then be made available to registered bidders. We at TBA believe this initiative will increase the transparency and can only encourage confidence in the sales process.
Our understanding is the Australian Stud Book (ASB) is seeking to introduce changes whereby they will keep a register of a horse’s owners (rather than the current system of having a ‘contact breeder’ for each horse) from the time the animal is registered as a foal . It is their aim that this register will then be made available to buyers at sales, if the horse is sold at auction prior to its racing career.
As the ASB is some way off achieving this objective, the board of TBA have agreed with the sales companies to start an ownership register immediately. While this ownership declaration is entirely voluntary, we would encourage all vendors to consider lodging their ownership interests in horses they are selling. For those selling on behalf of clients, we encourage you to have a conversation about whether they would be comfortable to provide this information.
For further information please contact TBA chief executive Tom Reilly on 0423 146 334.
Australian Stud Book Grant
In the past month, Racing Australia has notified TBA that it would no longer provide the organisation with a grant to assist it with meeting its running costs. This grant had been in place since 2003 and was viewed by the Stud Book’s previous owners, the Australian Turf Club and Victorian Racing Club, as a way to support the industry from which the Stud Book made its profit.
Their reasoning was that a strong TBA, lobbying on behalf of the breeding industry, was also good for the long?term future of the Stud Book.
Last year the grant was worth $75,000 to TBA, but it had been as high as $150,000 before the Stud Book halved the amount when they had to meet the costs of the artificial insemination court case.
The reason given by Racing Australia for the cancellation of the funding was the Board does not believe that the grant is essential to an effective and functioning TBA and that the Stud Book needed to cut costs.
TBA has registered its disappointment with the decision, especially given the fact members of the Racing Australia board lobbied vigorously for the importance of the grant when with the TBA.
Australian Stud Book profit
Racing Australia recently released their first annual report, which allowed an insight into the accounts of the Stud Book. While the profit and loss for the Stud Book is not broken out separately, the annual report reveals the Stud Book’s income to be in excess of $3.30 million.
Those familiar with the accounts of the Stud Book previously have informed TBA that this level of revenue would lead to a profit in excess of $2 million. It should also be noted that since being acquired by Racing Australia, the Stud Book has retrenched four members of staff and taken on other responsibilities in respect to the registering of racehorses.
As well as retrenching staff, it is understood the Stud Book has also terminated a scholarship it gave to a worthy student each year to complete the equine management course at Marcus Oldham College.
Increase to Import and Export Fees
The Stud Book last month announced that fees for the import and export of thoroughbreds (all breeding and racing stock) were to be increased from $200 to $500 per horse exported from Australia and $550 per horse imported. This will be levied on all horses exported from sales that are going overseas or even mares travelling between New Zealand and Australia.
We have sought an explanation from Racing Australia as to why such an increase was necessary. This increase is likely to generate well in excess of $750,000 extra in revenue for the Stud Book in 2016.
Herpes Virus Vaccine
As many of you will aware, there is currently a shortage of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) vaccine Duvaxyn® EHV – 1,4 (Duvaxyn). This has come about as a result of the drug’s manufacturer, Zoetis, moving production of the vaccine from Holland to America.
Zoetis say they intended to have production continuing in Holland until the new plant was working effectively, but due a number of issues this didn’t happen. As a result, when issues emerged in quality at the new site, there has been no production of the vaccine.
This is particularly damaging to Australia, where this product is the only one licenced, whereas in other countries customers can switch to other similar drugs. TBA met with Zoetis in November and they say they are committed to restarting production within the next month or two.
Unfortunately, because of the change in manufacturing site, Zoetis will need to apply for a new importation permit, which are given out by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).
This process can be lengthy. In fact, the standard time for a drug to be relicensed is about 18 months. However, TBA has already met with Barnaby Joyce’s chief of staff, as well as the shadow agriculture minister and other MPs and Senators to raise the need for any application from Zoetis to be fast?tracked.
We believe this will likely happen and we are currently in contact with Zoetis so that we can lobby government again as soon as the application is lodged.
In the meantime, it is vital that breeders ensure they adopt best practice farm management biosecurity procedures. TBA will shortly send out information regarding these best practices, but we also encourage all breeders to discuss the management of the virus with their veterinarians.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) launched a national programme on December 4 to prioritise and promote the welfare of thoroughbreds.
The landmark initiative will see the national peak body and all state breeding associations adopt a set of agreed guidelines, as well as the appointment of welfare officers in every state.
The guidelines, which outline the fundamental principles for the care of thoroughbred breeding stock, are believed to be the first such protocols adopted by a national breeding body anywhere in the world.
TBA president Basil Nolan said: “We already have a very high standard of care for our horses in the breeding industry, but I believe it is important for the TBA to highlight the message that welfare needs to be at the heart of what we do.
“We are fortunate that Australia has the second largest breeding industry in the world, but we always need to look to ways to protect our future and I believe this initiative assists in that aim.”
The guidelines state:
1. Horses should be provided with appropriate amounts of food and have access to quality drinking water.
2. Handling should accommodate the horse’s behaviour and should be done in a calm manner.
3. Horses should not be forced into positions or situations that cause unnecessary pain, harm or injury and no horse should be abused.
4. Horses should not be subjected to submissive techniques that injure or harm.
5. Sick and injured horses should be given appropriate care and medical attention in a timely manner in keeping with best practice. Where necessary, veterinary advice should be sought.
The guidelines will be reinforced by the engagement of welfare officers in each state and a dedicated 1300 telephone number for people to contact if they have concerns regarding the welfare of a thoroughbred.
The officers, who will work on a part?time basis, will be tasked with advocating on welfare, being a point of contact for people with concerns about the treatment of breeding stock, liaising with other relevant stakeholders about thoroughbred care and organising industry assistance when needed.
TBA chief executive Tom Reilly said: “We consider that experienced people from within the thoroughbred industry, whether they’re former farm managers or veterinarians, will want to pass on their experience and advocate on this issue as welfare officers.”
He added: “As the peak body in the breeding industry it’s important we take a leadership role and make clear the standards that are expected of all participants.”
People with concerns should contact 1300 TBA WELFARE (1300 822 935 3273) if they have any concerns about a thoroughbred breeding stock.
The welfare initiative was agreed at a TBA board meeting having already been ratified by the state associations.
Research and Development Levy
During 2013 TBA undertook industry consultation with thoroughbred breeders on a proposed Thoroughbred statutory R&D levy, culminating in a ballot undertaken by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in which the results demonstrated strong industry support for the levy proposal.
Subsequently, in November 2013 TBA lodged a submission to the Minister for Agriculture prepared in accordance with the Australian Government’s Levy Principles and Guidelines that sets out the requirements for establishing the case for the imposition of a statutory levy.
TBA’s intentions were to establish a long?term mechanism to address thoroughbred industry R&D needs in vital areas such as:
1. Biosecurity – The prevention and management of exotic and indigenous diseases, as Thoroughbred breeders are particularly susceptible to Biosecurity threats, as was demonstrated in the outbreak of Equine Influenza (EI) in 2007. Furthermore, the highly contagious Hendra and Kunjin viruses are both prevalent and endemic in Australia and are known to be fatal in horses and in some rare cases humans as well.
2. Reproduction – Improving conception and fertility rates of mares and stallions and reducing foetal loss caused by contagious diseases (eg. Equine Amnionitis, Placentitis, Contagious Equine Metritis, Equine Herpes and Equine Viral Arteritis, etc).
The proposed levy would involve a small administrative charge to be collected by the Australian Stud Book (ASB) of $10 per mare covered per season, paid by the stallion owner, and $10 per mare returned per season, paid by the broodmare owner.
The levy is expected to raise about $400,000 per annum which would then be matched by government, providing a sustainable funding base for R&D projects.
Given TBA’s application was submitted two years ago, TBA was forced to wait an unusually long time, when in September 2015, TBA received advice that its application had been rejected by Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. At subsequent meetings with his chief of staff, we were told that financial constraints were the reason for the decision.
TBA has since learned that the thoroughbred industry is the only industry to have its proposal rejected. In fact, Barnaby Joyce signed off on two new levies last month in the agriculture sector.
We are keen to have the minister’s decision overturned and have received support from a number of MPs and Senators on this issue. Joyce’s staff have also stated they are willing to continue dialogue on the issue and our aim is to have the grant included in the next federal budget.
China Free Trade deal
After a sustained campaign of lobbying, TBA was pleased that thoroughbreds were included in the Free Trade Agreement with China. This was particularly important as New Zealand had already struck a FTA with China, which saw Kiwi?bred horses enter the country without paying a 10 per cent tariff.
Since the China FTA was ratified by parliament late in 2015, the tariff has already dropped from 10 per cent to 6 per cent and will be completely phased out by January 2019.
Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards
Together with Godolphin and Racing Australia, TBA was a founding partner in the Stud and Stable Staff Awards.
The awards were open to all staff employed in racing and breeding across Australia, with Godolphin very generously providing $100,000 in prizes. The winners of each of the six categories all received a cheque for $10,000 as well as a specially designed trophy.
More than 200 people from across Australia entered the categories and a judging panel including Basil Nolan and Chris Watson selected the winners. The awards were given great coverage on Bred To Win, where each of the winners was profiled during the show. The prizes were given out at a lunch in Sydney in November with the overall award presented to Mark Newnham.
Planning has already begun for the 2016 awards and we would encourage all breeders to nominate those people who you feel would be deserving of such a prize.
Aushorse launched a new website shortly before the Spring Carnival to better showcase the Australian breeding and racing industries. The aim is to have a resource where we can point people to from all countries, including a domestic audience, to receive information about the Australia and how to get involved in our sport.
One of the centrepieces of the site is a video produced for Aushorse by Channel 7, which incorporates all the best of Australian racing and breeding. Aushorse encourages you all to view the new site and watch the video at aushorse.com.au
While the site is currently only available in English, a version in simplified Mandarin (which can be read by 85 per cent of people in China) it will shortly be up, with further versions in Japanese and Arabic to be online later in the year.
In the middle of 2015 Aushorse began electronic Direct Mail (EDM) newsletter each week. The mailout, which is sent on a Monday, typically has five or six short stories which promote the successes of Australian bred horses or focus on industry matters. The newsletter is received by more than 3,000 people and is a very cost?effective way of getting our message across.
Aushorse again published its annual magazine in December, which is sent to more than 5000 people in Australia and around the world. The aim is to produce a high?end magazine with original content that also serves as a promotion for the Australian breeding and racing industries.
In our latest edition there were stories on the Michelle Payne’s victory in the Melbourne Cup, the success of Australian?bred stallions in Europe, the increasing influence of Chinese buyers in Australia and a feature of Bart Cummings by leading sports writer Malcolm Knox. Other information in the magazine includes a calendar of sales and information to assist buyers coming from overseas.
In 2015 Aushorse advertised in a number of major export markets across the world, as well as significantly domestically too. Among the new initiatives was to write to all owners in Hong Kong in Cantonese in December selling the benefits of buying Australian, as well as advertising in the main local form guides as well.
In the coming months Aushorse will launch its first campaign in Mandarin aimed at increasing awareness of the Australian product in mainland China.
To support the launch of the new website and our video, we launched a campaign in America, Europe and domestically highlighting the high level of ownership in Australia . The ad had one of the highest click?through rates of any digital ad on the Racing Post site, with more than 2000 people watching the video from the ad in the first two weeks of it being up.
Own A Champion and Survey
Aushorse ran a competition where we gave away a share in Gerry Harvey’s Royal Descent when she ran in last year’s Doncaster. The promotion was done in conjunction with Fairfax Media who provided more than $250,000 of free advertising. We received more than 10,000 entries, quickly creating a big database of people interested in racehorse ownership.
As well as allowing us to directly market to these people, we have been able to survey the competition’s participants. We used a respected marketing firm specialising in sport (who currently assist the NRL and have worked for the AFL), to get insights into what triggers would encourage people into ownership.
More than 1800 people took the survey, spending an average of 17 minutes filling in the questions. While just under half had never been owners before, there was a significant number of people who were current racehorse owners as well as those who had walked away from a financial commitment.
While we are still assessing the feedback there have been some valuable insights already established: such as a lack of knowledge on how to get involved in the sport, a lack of understanding about ownership types and the commitment involved, as well as a frustration at the race day experience as an owner and a disappointment in communications from trainers.
Once the information has been fully assessed we will share with principal racing authorities, race clubs, the sales companies and other stakeholders such as syndicators as well it guiding our domestic strategy.
In October Jess McKeown joined the Aushorse team in Sydney after the departure of Rowena Smith after many years of hard work for the organisation. Jess comes to Aushorse after working as Triple Crown’s racing manager and time spent with Magic Millions and Blue Sky Bloodstock. She has also completed the British National Stud course where she was given the award for top student.
In October Aushorse was also pleased to announce Oliver Tait would join us as our European and American consultant, following the resignation of Fiona Goor. Olly has agreed to give us about 10 per cent of his time and having him as a consultant brings a great deal of experience in these markets to our organisation.
Lindy Maurice, who previously worked for Aushorse when it was first established, has also been working on a number of projects for Aushorse in 2015 and will continue to assist us in the coming year.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia is the national peak industry body established for the benefit of the Australian Thoroughbred breeding industry. TBA is the parent company of the 6 state breeders’ associations and has an associate membership base of 3,800 individual breeders and other industry participants.
Further information can be obtained at: www.tbaus.com or www.aushorse.net.au or by contacting TBA by email.