There is an estimated 900 000 to 1.8 million horses in Australia, and this industry is worth big money. Racing (which includes breeding, racing businesses and wagering) is estimated to contribute around $3.9 billion to GDP! So if you’re interested in the horse breeding industry, which involves the care, mating, raising, marketing and management of very valuable bloodstock, then keep reading.
Note: The annual breeding cycle of the industry enables Australian workers to obtain fresh opportunities in the northern hemisphere during the Australian off-season.
So what are the opportunities? Horses are bred on horse studs. A stud is a farm for selective breeding, so male horses (stallions) are made available for breeding to outside female animals for a fee.
The breeding industry in Australia is becoming very highly regarded. Initially it was the foreign horses coming here but now there is demand for Australian horses to head overseas. In 2014 alone, Australia breeders spent more than $400 million on fees for stallions (a top stallion could receive $100,000 for each pregnancy, and serve up to 200 mares each season from September through to the end of December). As well as stallions, at auctions in 2015, around $430 million was outlaid on yearlings. weanlings and broodmares.
Stud hands are usually at the beginning of a career in the horse breeding industry and duties may include basic horse handling duties, feeding and handling, cleaning and maintaining stables, paddocks and equipment, maintaining property improvements and operating machinery and equipment. As you would become more senior, you could be involved in administering first aid and medications, caring for foals and young horses, operating machinery and equipment and property improvements.
As a stud groom or stud supervisor you could be involved in many of the horse breeding activities, such as caring for foaling-down broodmares, carrying out mare mating procedures, treating equine injury and disease, and the handling and care of stallions.
A stud manager is likely to have significant responsibilities in managing horse breeding activities. Their duties include managing livestock production and physical and natural resources, business administration, staff management and training and supporting livestock marketing.
A general manager of a stud has the primary responsibility for ensuring that the horse breeding enterprise is successfully managed. These responsibilities include whole property planning and management, managing livestock production systems, marketing livestock and business planning.
What to study
Animal and Equine Studies at TAFE would put you in good standing. This could include Certificates in Rural Operations, Agriculture, Horse Breeding and Equine Stud Skills as well as Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas of Agriculture or Rural Business Management. Undergraduate degrees in Agricultural Science are also available from many universities across Australia.
Remember that to work on a stud you have to be fit and energetic – it’s physical work and you are outdoors in all weathers.
It’s also good to be relaxed, especially around the animals as an uptight temperament can unsettle the horses. It’s an industry where team work is essential and there a lots of opportunities so you just need to be keen to learn, have a good work ethic and appreciate the opportunities as they come to you.
A Bloodstock Agent buys and sells Thoroughbreds on behalf of their clients. They will analyse pedigrees and assess the value of horses being offered for sale – often biding at auctions or brokering deals for them. You’ll likely do lots of travel and need to constantly network with others in the industry.
Agents may also advise clients on breeding plans for their mares and may also appraise horses for insurance purposes.
What to study
While there are no specific educational requirements for becoming a bloodstock agent, you will need a solid knowledge of the Thoroughbred industry and pedigrees, equine anatomy and physiology, industry news and trends, and a good eye for evaluating horses – something you will gain from experience, though the TAFE courses mentioned above would definitely be a help!
Most begin my working at a top breeding farm, becoming a trainer’s apprentice, or by working for a sales agency and learning the ropes of the bloodstock business. See all of the Australian horse studs here.
Not sure if breeding is for you? Check out what’s on offer in looking after the health and wellbeing of horses.