Irish horse breeders plan €342m investment

Irish riders won all three international classes on offer on the opening day of the Dublin Horse Show 2022 on Thursday. Limerick driver Paul O’Shea and Machu Picchu, pictured, won The Sport Ireland Classic, Richard Howley of Sligo guided Fame to victory in the Minerva Stakes, and Mikey Pender of Kildare and HHS Fortune won the Speed Stakes. © Laurence Dunne/Jumpinaction

Sport horse breeders in Ireland plan to invest some €342m (NZ$550m; $345m) in infrastructure over the next three years, the country’s leading equine body reports.

A recently published report by Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) titled Livestock business 2022, is the first to review the investment plans of more than 9,000 sport horse breeders nationwide for the next three years. “The Business of Breeding 2022” provides an in-depth look at horse breeders’ past investments on the farm and their intentions.

The report was based on an analysis of investment sentiment and surveys of sport horse breeders nationwide conducted in June 2022. The survey was shared with breeders on the Irish Horse Register, groups sport horse breeders, breed societies and other approved herd books. The research was conducted at a time when the challenges of Brexit, climate change and rising inflation were well known.

It was launched on the opening day of the first RDS Dublin Horse Show since 2019 by Senator Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

“This industry supports many family farms across the country. I am working with my colleagues Minister McConalogue and Minister Heydon to ensure that the equine sector is included in the next TAMS scheme. This will require European approval in the coming months and today’s study offers valuable insight into how the livestock sector will continue to make a valuable contribution to many farms across the world. ‘Ireland.

"Livestock business 2022" report examines the investment plans of over 9,000 sport horse breeders in Ireland for the next three years.
Horse Sport Ireland Livestock business 2022 report.

HSI general manager Denis Duggan said the investment planned by ranchers includes on-farm improvements such as manure management, fencing and barns, and will support many more construction and manufacturing jobs in the other Irish businesses.

“This is a significant, large-scale, on-farm investment in equine facilities across the country. Our research indicates that horse breeders live, work, and will undertake these investments in every county across the country.

“Despite the increase in construction costs, which was well known when this research was undertaken, we are seeing a significant appetite for equine upgrades and improvements on the farm, many of which will have environmental benefits or lead to improvements on-farm animal safety and welfare standards,” Duggan said.

Sonja Egan, head of breeding, innovation and development at HSI, said horse breeders are the foundation of the horse industry’s success.

“There is both a national and international desire to own a purebred Irish horse. Purebred Irish horses are major exports, with 69% of breeders having sold at least one horse outside the island of Ireland .

“Our sport horse industry is estimated to contribute over €1 billion a year to the Irish economy.”

She said the most requested items for any future on-farm capital investment program were fencing, all-weather holding areas, young animal housing, arenas, stables and manure pile management. .

The survey received 1,076 unique responses from breeders nationwide, making the research nationally representative and accurate to less than three percent.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the research:

  • 57% are somewhat or very optimistic about the future of the equine farming industry and 55% believe their equine income will stay the same or increase in 2022
  • 78% say rising costs are the biggest challenge facing their business, with the biggest increases seen in feed, fertilizer and fuel.
  • 69% sold a horse outside of Ireland
  • 78% have undertaken at least one environmental measure in the past three years, such as planting trees or managing waste dumps.
  • 83% of breeders have less than 10 horses, and on average breeders operate 65 acres of land
  • 48% have another farming business, with the majority having a cattle or sheep business
  • 79% of farmers who do not have a second farm have also not heard of the Targeted Agricultural Modernization Scheme (TAMS) or had a limited understanding
  • 56% say an on-farm capital investment program will encourage them to invest in their business

This survey was conducted independently by IFAC on behalf of HSI and was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

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