Political Support For Breeders

Federal politicians from across the political divide have rallied behind thoroughbred breeding, as the industry committed to tackling any issue around welfare.

Ministers, shadow ministers, MPs and senators met with industry leaders at Parliament House in Canberra for an annual event organised by Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) and the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers.

There was praise for the industry’s response to animal welfare issues raised in an ABC report about retired thoroughbreds last week. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals Leader and Riverina MP Michael McCormack addressed the footage.

“No breeder, no jockey, no trainer, no self-respecting person in the racing industry would want to see horses end up that way,” he said.

“It’s just not the way racing does things.”

Mr McCormack praised the racing and breeding industries for boosting employment and economic outcomes for regional Australia.

“Whether it’s a little dusty country race track out in the middle of nowhere, or whether it’s the Murrumbidgee Turf Club which is a magnificent facility in Wagga Wagga and everything in between,” he said.

“Well done to you breeders, you owners and everyone involved.

“This government will always back you every step of the way, I know I share bipartisanship when I say that.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese labeled what was shown on 7.30 as an outrage, saying it shocked him.

“I’m confident that your industry will work your butt off,” he said.

“You’ll open yourselves up to scrutiny because you don’t want any taint whatsoever.”

He said the combined racing and breeding industries provided almost $10 billion to Australia’s economy and about 90,000 jobs.

“I say on behalf of the Labor Party, it’s good you’ve got on the front foot,” the party’s leader said. 

“It’s important governments take action where appropriate as well.” 

Mr Albanese said the national economy and people’s quality of life couldn’t afford for the industry to be damaged.

“We can’t afford, for what is overwhelmingly such a positive experience, to be damaged as well.

“We will do anything we can do to provide assistance.”

TBA chief executive Tom Reilly, who spoke first, said the racing and breeding industries had been under intense scrutiny in the past week.

“I, like every breeder, every owner and every trainer I’ve spoken to, was horrified by what we saw,” he said.

“What we saw was not the industry I know.”

He said the industry needed to ensure the highest care of horses and commit to ensuring every animal leaving racing had the chance of a productive career.

“We have the courage and we have the determination to ensure that we have an industry that we can all be proud of,” Mr Reilly said.

“We must address the issues the ABC has raised. As an industry we will be judged by our response.”

TBA has called for the establishment of a national welfare task force including all stakeholders and independent experts.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, who breeds and races horses, also attended the event along with high-ranking diplomats from premier racing nations.

New Zealand High Commissioner Dame Annette King, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye, Singapore High Commissioner Kwok Fook Seng and Irish Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí were among the guests.

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories Nola Marino and co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers said she wanted the industry to know it was appreciated by the government.

“We know you’re so important to this nation,” she said. “As breeders you do a great job producing the best racehorses in the world and we should be proud of the quality of our industry.”

Shadow Agriculture Minister, Hunter MP and co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers Joel Fitzgibbon described it as an important parliamentary event.

“Every year the breeders come to this event and explain what you do to all of us in Canberra, and that’s an important job,” he said.

Minister for Drought, Water Resources and Emergency Management David Littleproud attended with Nationals colleagues Barnaby Joyce, Damian Drum – a part-owner of Cox Plate hopeful Kings Will Dream – Pat Conaghan, David Gillespie and Michelle Landry.

Labor senators Anthony Chisholm and Raff Ciccone were there to support the thoroughbred industry.

Among those attending from the Liberal Party were Assistant Minister for Vocational Training, Steve Irons, Nicole Flint, Tony Pasin and John Alexander, and senator Hollie Hughes.


Video of the evening to follow shortly. 
A copy of Tom Reilly’s speech is also available. 

For more information contact Tom Reilly on 0423 146 334

Thoroughbred Research and Development Levy – your input needed!

As you may know Thoroughbred Breeders Australia successfully lobbied the Australian Government to introduce a matched thoroughbred research and development levy.

This levy started in breeding season 2017 and in its first full year raised about $400,000, which is then matched dollar for dollar by the Australian Government. In addition, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and Racing Australia have made voluntary contributions to the pool of funding, which have also been matched by government.

The levy allows us to commission research that safeguards the long-term future of our industry. We are able to invest in projects that make a significant difference in areas such as the prevention and management of exotic and indigenous diseases; raising the conception rates of mares and stallions; improving foal health; as well as research into welfare, injury rates and industry modelling.

When the Levy began TBA ran an extensive consultation process to ask breeders what areas should be prioritised for research. As a result of that process a number of projects have been started, but we are now looking for new areas of research.

We want to hear from you, so please read the section below and send us your suggestions.

Questions and Answers:

How the levy works? The levy is set at a rate of $10 per mare covered per season, paid by the stallion owner and $10 per mare returned per season, paid by the broodmare owner. These payments are made through the Australian Stud Book.

How much is raised? In its first full year the levy raised in the region of $400,000 from breeders, though this will fluctuate with the numbers of mares being covered.

Who oversees the money? Racing Australia – owner of the Australian Stud Book – collect the money from breeders before passing it on the Agrifutures.

Who are Agrifutures and what do they do? Agrifutures is the new name for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). Because the federal government is making a significant investment in the Thoroughbred Levy scheme, they require Agrifutures to oversee how the money is spent.

Their role is to work with the breeding industry, develop a 5 year plan for R&D, and then commission projects and ensure they are delivered on time and to the standards the breeding industry expects and requires.

Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC)

What involvement do breeders have? No project will ever be funded from breeders’ money without the approval of breeders. An expert panel has been set up by Agrifutures, upon the recommendation of TBA, and their role is to suggest projects, oversee the commission of studies, and assess proposals that are put forward by researchers seeking funding. TBA also has a regular monthly meeting with Agrifutures to be updated on all projects.

Who is on the panel? The list of members is:

  • Professor Nigel Perkins (School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland) – Chairman
  • Jacqueline Stewart, (Keeper of the Australian Stud Book)
  • Dr Catherine Chicken (consultant to the Scone Equine Hospital on pathology and infectious disease)
  • Dr Judith Medd (Racing and Wagering Western Australia Industry Veterinarian)
  • Derek Field (Widden Stud General Manager)
  • Tas Rielley (owner/operator of Basinghall Broodmare Farm at Nagambie).

How can I suggest projects?

We encourage all breeders to send their proposals to TBA so that we can pass on this information to the panel that commission projects and oversee the levy. You can email your suggestions to james@tbaus.com

When putting forward areas for research it may help to consider the following questions:

  1. what do think are the most important issues and concerns affecting the breeding industry either now, potentially or in years to come?
  2. Thinking about the important issues you’ve just mentioned in question (1), what type of research projects “specifically” (e.g. improved vaccine strategies for management of equine herpes viruses) should we be funding to help address those issues?

What projects are currently underway? The following research has been funded by breeders:

Non-invasive ventilatory support for foals: Breathing difficulties and lung disease are common in foals and may be transient immediately after birth, or may be related to prematurity, infectious disease or other conditions. This project will continue work by the research team on non-invasive support of respiration in neonatal foals using commercially-available, positive airway pressure (PAP) devices used for at home care of respiratory conditions in people. This approach promises to increase our ability to support foals with breathing difficulties more effectively than by administration of oxygen alone, but without invasive ventilation procedures that are technically demanding and usually cost-prohibitive in equine patients.

Measure the economic impact of the thoroughbred breeding industry: This project, which is almost completed, estimates the contribution of the breeding industry to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and includes a breakdown of economic contributions across all key aspects of the industry. Both the direct and indirect contributions from thoroughbred breeding are captured. This information is important for explaining the significance of our industry to a range of stakeholders and decision makers.

Improving the detection of parasitic infections and control strategies in horses: Currently, there is an incomplete understanding of the gastrointestinal parasites affecting the health, performance and welfare of thoroughbred horses in Australia. Although documented for some important parasitic nematode species, the true extent of resistance in parasites of horses to the commonly used anthelmintics in this country is unknown. This project aims to determine the epidemiology of intestinal parasites, assess practices to control parasites, understand the resistance to antiparasitic drugs and develop rapid diagnostic tool for infections in horses.

Improved bacterial identification and antimicrobial testing:  This project will generate epidemiological data on the bacterial species associated with different infectious diseases in horses in south eastern Australia, and the antimicrobial drugs to which these isolates are susceptible. This information is of vital importance to equine veterinarians as treatment is often, of necessity, initiated prior to receipt of laboratory results from individual patients. In such cases, the best available information on which to base drug selection is data from similar patients in the same location. This data is simply not available in Australia. Collation of such data over time allows recognition of changes in antimicrobial susceptibility, which is critical for recognition of the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. A second outcome will be comparison of more advanced laboratory techniques available for the identification and testing of bacterial isolates.

The uterine microbiome – key to equine fertility?: This project aims an improved understanding of the role of the bacterial microflora of the equine reproductive tract on equine fertility. Following on from this, novel diagnostic and treatment methods for equine infertility will be developed. In addition, the research aims to formulate easy-to-use on-farm protocols for management and treatment that could significantly improve fertility outcomes. These might include alterations to how stallions are treated between breedings or how mares are prepared for breeding. The ultimate outcome of this research will be improved fertility rates for broodmares, as the causes of infertility in some older, chronically infertile mares are identified and effective treatment regimens are developed.

Wellbeing from pregnancy to racing: This project involves two complementary studies. The first will look at the data from the Australian studbook for all breeding records between 2000 and 2015 examining the population statistics of the Australian Thoroughbred industry.  The temporo-spatial nature of mare and stallion returns, the number of foals born and the number of foals that are subsequently microchipped will be reported.  The second aspect will examine a subset of the national foal crop from 2012 and delve into the reasons that foals do not enter racing. A phone survey of breeders and owners will be conducted to get this insight. Understanding the reasons that prevent foals from undertaking a racing career is essential for the development of strategies and actions that will prevent these negative outcomes from occurring

Understanding heat stress and stallion fertility: Systemic heat stress in mammals is detrimental to sperm production and male fertility. This phenomenon has not been adequately examined in the horse, or in a field setting relevant to the Australian Thoroughbred industry. Specifically, we do not know how the climatic conditions experienced by stallions in the major Thoroughbred breeding hubs of Australia affect their fertility. Some 43 stallions will be examined as part of the study, with the aim of developing measures to successfully alleviate the effects of heat on fertility.

Understanding the epidemiology of Chlamydia psittaci infections in mares: Equine reproductive loss due to infectious agents impacts significantly on Australian Thoroughbred breeders. While a range of bacterial agents are a recognized cause of equine abortion, Chlamydia psittaci has emerged as a cause of reproductive loss as well as zoonotic disease of veterinarians and stud workers. Recent work has confirmed that prevalence rates of C. psittaci-infected equine pregnancy losses were higher than were originally considered, suggesting that this problem may be widespread and not just a recent phenomenon. While molecular methods have pointed to contact with birds as a key part of this issue little else is known about equine chlamydiosis, challenging any efforts to reduce the risk to animal and human health.

This project aims to reduce pregnancy losses in Australia’s thoroughbred industry by revealing basic information on the epidemiology of this disease, focussing on two key aspects of this disease, the C. psittaci-infected mare and the potential avian reservoirs of C. psittaci infection.

Rapid diagnosis of infectious agents of reproductive loss: Equine reproductive loss due to infectious agents impacts significantly on Australian Thoroughbred breeders. A range of bacterial agents are involved. Some of these also pose a significant occupational health risk to workers in this industry. Accurate detection of the infectious agents is important for the management of affected mares. While nucleic acid testing is considered the ‘gold-standard’, testing is normally only performed by well-equipped veterinary diagnostic laboratories with molecular capabilities. This restriction means significant delays before diagnostic results are available.

This project aims to develop and evaluate rapid nucleic acid tests for two important causes of equine reproductive loss in Australia, Equine Herpes Virus-1 (EHV-1), a recognized cause of equine abortion, and Chlamydia psittaci, an emerging cause of reproductive loss as well as zoonotic disease of stud workers and veterinarians.

Visa Victory

Back in 2017 the federal government decided to scrap the 457 visas available to the thoroughbred industry: namely, those visas for the occupations of Horse Breeder and Horse Trainer.

After extensive lobbying, the Horse Trainer visa was reinstated later that year, with Horse Breeder made available in 2018. However, when the Horse Breeder category was reinstated, it was done so with a caveat stating that applicants would have to be paid $90,000 to be eligible.

Obviously this made the visa out of reach of most studs wanting to employ an experienced staff member from overseas. Thankfully, the government has now reduced the salary restriction to $58,000, which should again make it possible for farms to bring in the small numbers of people they need.

Applications Open for Fast Track

Fast Track Classroom

Thoroughbred Breeders Australia’s traineeship program Fast Track is open for its second intake.

The training scheme was launched last year as part of TBA’s commitment to find and educate the next generation of industry talent.

The program works by finding young people who have a passion for horses and placing them with a respected farm where they will gain hands-on experience via a traineeship, while also completing a Certificate III in Horse Breeding through TAFE NSW Scone.

The TAFE component of the program includes two intensive learning blocks (6 weeks in total) and includes 16 formal study modules.

Among the modules they learn are:

  • caring for broodmares
  • foaling
  • handling young horses
  • mating procedures
  • disease prevention
  • horse behaviour

Applications are now open for 2019 and will close on March 31 ahead of the 12-month program that starts in late May. We encourage people from across Australia to apply and there is scope for placements on farms nationwide.

The program has received great support from the breeding industry in the past 12 months; not only from farms willing to take on trainees, but also people willing to share their time and experiences with those on the course. As well as teaching provided by TAFE, the trainees enjoyed a series of tutorials provided by experts from within industry.

“I would absolutely recommend to anybody to get behind this,” says Royston Murphy of Sledmere Stud, who have taken on a trainee.

“I think we really need to push these initiatives and we’ll definitely be taking on some more people every year.”

Cecelia O’Gorman of TBA, who co-ordinates Fast Track, is keen to hear from anybody who might be interested in applying for the course.

“It’s very important that we have quality people coming onto the program, so we really want to get applications from people that love of horses and have a strong work ethic,” she says.

“Applicants don’t have to have any prior experience with thoroughbreds, but it is important that they have the determination to succeed and get through to the end of the course – then hopefully they will go on to have a long career in breeding.”

Kitchwin Hills’ Mick Malone says the program would go a long way to ensuring long-term employment opportunities in the industry.

“Fast Track is a great initiative that will benefit farms all over the country as it provides a great introduction to breeding,” he said. “We are very happy with our trainee and are keen to continue our involvement with the second intake.”

Applicants can find out more about the program and apply here.

Farms who wish to be involved should contact Cecelia on 0411 696 036.