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:
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.
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.
oversees the money? Racing Australia – owner of the
Australian Stud Book – collect the money from breeders before passing it on the
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
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.
Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC)
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.
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 email@example.com
putting forward areas for research it may help to consider the following
- what do think are the most important issues and concerns affecting the breeding industry either now, potentially or in years to come?
- 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
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.
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