Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Commercial equine production in New Zealand. 1. Reproduction and breeding

Erica K. Gee A B , Chris W. Rogers A and Charlotte F. Bolwell A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Massey Equine, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

B Corresponding author. Email: e.k.gee@massey.ac.nz

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16728
Submitted: 9 November 2016  Accepted: 9 May 2017   Published online: 21 July 2017

Abstract

The Thoroughbred and Standardbred studbooks are the largest in New Zealand, where the production of horses is pasture based. Each racing studbook is closed, and both have well structured systems in place for recording breeding data. There are significant pressures on the Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeding industries with declining broodmare numbers, and increasingly large book sizes for popular stallions. The breeding season for Thoroughbreds is very short, with disparity between the official breeding season and the physiologic breeding season for mares. These issues are confounded by variable gestation lengths of mares, making it difficult for mares to maintain yearly foaling patterns. However, the reproductive efficiency of Thoroughbred mares is improving, mainly due to veterinary and stud management practices such as those to ensure that dry mares are cycling at the start of the breeding season, foaling mares are bred on foal heat, and that mares are kept in good body condition at breeding. There is also a bias towards breeding younger mares with high fertility in preference to older mares, unless they have desired genetics or successful offspring. Careful management of popular Thoroughbred stallions ensures that large books of mares can be covered by natural service. In contrast, Standardbred stallions are collected every-other-day using an artificial vagina, allowing the breeding of mares at distant locations by artificial insemination, using chilled or frozen semen. Breeding horses kept at pasture under New Zealand conditions requires excellent stud management and veterinary management to achieve good outcomes.

Additional keywords: horse, pasture, sport horse, Standardbred, Thoroughbred.


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