by Barbara Aitkin Jenkins
Flipping through magazines or scrolling social media, we see countless stallion advertisements featuring beautiful photos of stallions, highlighting their show pen accomplishments, lifetime earnings and most importantly, a glaring number that stands out — their stud fee. What exactly are mare owners paying for when it comes to dishing out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a stud fee?
Top breeding managers and stallion owners help us break down the stud fee, and help us understand what we are actually paying for.
Chris Cecil Darnell of Cecil Breeding Farm in Wadsworth, Ohio, Debbi Trubee of North Farm in North Lawrence, Ohio, and Amy Gumz of Gumz Farms in Morganfield, Kentucky share their insights on what services are built into stud fees.
There are two ways breedings are generally offered:
First, breedings can be purchased directly from the stallion, which includes a stud fee that goes to the stallion owners, and the booking fee generally goes to the breeding farm. The second option is purchasing futurity breedings, which are donated to different causes and associations like NSBA, Southern Belle which are normally bought at half the listed price plus a $100 fee, depending on the program. With these, the breeding farm will generally charge a chute fee, which is designed to cover the expenses at the farm, and that is usually charged every time the stallion is collected.
Whichever option a mare owner chooses, in most cases they must purchase a chute fee/booking fee. The purpose of this fee is to help pay for the expenses the breeding facility will incur when collecting and shipping semen.
The breeding farm costs include supplies and equipment, as well as paying their help. On top of it, shipping fees can range from $250 and up. Most farms will also charge a fee for a return breeding. For example, a chute fee would be charged if a mare did not get in foal and the owners decide to breed the following year.
In addition to farm and shipping costs, stallion owners must promote their stallions, which can be a costly expense. Advertising and promotion are part of the package of promoting the stallion.
Although social media helps with the advertising costs, traditional methods like magazine advertisements can cost up to $1000 a month. This does not include design or photography fees. Advertising could easily add up to $10,000 a year.
In addition to the hands-on fees that are part of the package, the stud fee is influenced by the marketability of the offspring. If the stallion’s offspring are successful, those studs can afford to charge more for a stud fee. Marketability of the offspring has a lot to do with the price of the stud fee.
Stallion owners must set prices according to what the market will bear. That is a top priority because stallion owners cannot set a fee too high or it will drive mare owners away. However, they would do a disservice to their stallion if they set the fee too low.
Creating appropriate stud fees involves finding a good price that benefits both stallion and mare owners, along with the breeding facilities.
It’s not just semen.
To know you are getting the biggest bang for your buck, make sure to ask the following questions of the breeding facilities and/or the stallion owners:
• What are the semen counts?
• How does the stallion ship?
• Are you getting mares in foal?
• How many get repeated shipments?
And any other questions you feel are relevant to your breeding situation.
After understanding how much the stallion’s portion of the equation will cost, it is important to also budget how much it will cost to inseminate the mare. Deciding whether to take a mare to a local vet or to the breeding facility is a decision that will influence the cost.
If a mare needs a shipment on the same day, facilities will normally charge an extra $100 for counter-to-counter. In addition, many facilities also charge extra for international shipping as well.
With any purchase we make in the horse industry or otherwise, it is important to know what you are paying for and understand what value the purchase has for you. As for breedings specifically, the most important part is knowing that you received the best deal for YOU and being excited for your new foal.