Given the world-wide nature of the horse industry and the powerful genetics of the American Western performance horse industry, it’s no surprise mare owners around the globe are interested in American bloodstock.
Unlike some horse associations, which require live cover, the American Quarter Horse Association and many others allow registration of foals conceived via artificial insemination. That, and the ability to freeze semen for international shipment, makes it possible for owners in other countries or even continents to breed mares to U.S.-based stallions.
For Northern hemisphere countries, such as those in Europe, the breeding seasons are similar to those found in the United States. However, that’s not the case with Southern Hemisphere countries such as Australia or in South America.
Even though the seasons don’t align, U.S.-based stallions can still sire foals in those markets.
Shane Plummer, owner of SDP Buffalo Ranch, has been involved in the Southern hemisphere markets for years – particularly Australia, which has a strong stock horse culture – and says certain countries can offer opportunity for stallion owners seeking another revenue stream for their studs.
In Part 1 of this three-part series of Industry Insider with SDP, Plummer explains when the breeding season is in the Southern Hemisphere, what countries currently offer the best markets for US-based stallions and what kind of opportunity can shipping to the Southern Hemisphere be to a stallion.
QHN: What countries in the Southern hemisphere are markets for US-based stallions? Which countries have historically had the most demand for US-based studs?
Plummer: I have exported semen to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, South Africa and Namibia. Historically, Australia and Brazil have had the most demand and reoccurring distribution.
Only Australia has worked out as a consistent pipeline because of registry and business control. Nothing against Brazil, but it is not set up to allow stallion owners the right to control their product and its country registry is playing by a very unfair set of rules.
QHN: What is the approximate time frame for the Southern hemisphere breeding season, and what months are most of the Southern hemisphere foals born?
Plummer: September through January is the basic breeding season and foals are born August through December for the most part. In my experience, the majority of foals are born in September and October.
QHN: How long have you been shipping semen to Australia or other Southern hemisphere countries? Why did you feel it was an important market(s) to be involved in?
Plummer: Our first breeding season in Australia was 2006. Gosh, I got a bit nostalgic after this question. I have some great memories and a deep love for the people down under. I love Australia and the people – they just sort of talk funny. (Just kidding.)
My stalwart business partner there and the man I trust with my life, Vince Bonello, approached me about importing TR Dual Rey semen. After a quick review and logistics, we went ahead. I did not just export semen there, we set up an Australian business and heavily promoted it through incentives, sponsorship and being within the industry there.
Since that time, our direct involvement has had over $3 million in market impact. I am very proud of that. I give credit to wise decisions made by Vince and Sally Bonello, my new friends, over the years in Australia and the ability to transact business there much the way I do here in the U.S., just tweaked to fit that country.
I have no end in sight with Australia, not by a long shot.
QHN: During the time you have been shipping to the Southern hemisphere, what trends have you observed in terms of demand for breeding to U.S.-based stallions? Any predictions as far as whether demand to breed to American-based stallions will be more or less in the next few years?
Plummer: I want to be clear, I have seen a few horses in my travels to Australia and Brazil that could compete in the USA. So, there are excellent horses in both countries. Having said that, the level of competition and the many decades of specialized breeding in the USA means that the top-end power in genetics is in the USA.
At my first NCHA Futurity in Australia, I think there were two horses in the finals sired via frozen semen by USA stallions. Two years ago, it was 13 out of the 20, and five of the seven that were not sired via frozen semen were by stallions who themselves were sired via frozen semen from a U.S.-based stallion.
The playing field has changed dramatically and so has the horse power. It is exciting to see. Genetics matter. So, I feel like that trend is going to continue. It is not mutually exclusive by any means, but it is fairly evident and is results-based.
QHN: In what situations is making a stallion available to breeders in Southern hemisphere countries advantageous to the horse’s breeding career? Are there any drawbacks to consider?
Plummer: I like to put it this way: What is your stallion doing in the “offseason?” Answer: nothing. He’s standing in a stall. Sure would be nice to have another revenue stream, would it not? You betcha!
Of course, there has to be demand. Of course, the stallion has to have fertility and a good semen product. Of course, the stallion owner has to invest cash to make it all happen. But, there is a strong and real marketplace for stallions of the right caliber.
I have worked for over a decade figuring it all out, setting up a supply chain, checks and balances, clientele and seeing what works. I have learned a lot, good and bad. I have paid plenty for my education. Drawbacks? Don’t think it is easy – it isn’t. Don’t commit with people if you can’t deliver. International business is not simple. You think it is, but it isn’t. There are government regulations both directions, currency exchange rates, logistics, language issues, product quality control and more.
If you want to pursue this, make sure you can deliver, because if you can’t your reputation and your horse’s reputation will be tarnished. It is just wrong anyway.
Part 2 of this series will publish Thursday, Sept. 30 at quarterhorsenews.com.