DROUGHT-like conditions across much of Europe this past summer could lead to increased opportunities for contract rearing of equines in Ireland on behalf of overseas owners and breeders, according to the chairman of Horse Sport Ireland, Joe Reynolds, who was alarmed at the general poor state of grassland while on a recent visit to Germany.

Speaking at last week’s Horse Sport Ireland’s pre-Budget submission to Government, which unveiled a €33.5 million funding ask, Joe Reynolds said he was struck by the effects of this summer’s prolonged heatwave which saw temperatures soaring into the high 40s across Europe, leading to shortage of available grazing.

Fodder scheme

With the ongoing war in Ukraine, animal feed costs are estimated to be up around 40% this winter, leading HSI to include a €9 million fodder and feed scheme in their Budget submission, aimed at alleviating a possible equine welfare crisis this winter as horse owners and breeders grapple with rising inflation.

If funded by Government in next week’s Budget, the ring-fenced feed scheme would be capped at 10 horses per eligible person to the tune of €100 per horse, a maximum of €1,000 per yard of 10 horses or more.

“We are not aiming to look after the big ranchers here, this is to get at the average size - and we do now know what the average size [of equine enterprises] is in the industry from our economic report [The Business of Breeding 2022].

“The price of imported feedstuffs is considerable and I feel there is scope for increased contract breeding of equines in Ireland compared to other European countries hit by drought.

“I was in Germany last week and when you see the condition of their ground there is going to be a lot of competition for imported feedstuffs. The grass has actually broken at the butt there and you are just looking at soil, it’s a huge job to get their grass growing again and they are going to be competing for feedstuffs on the international market so I think it is very important we are doing as much as we can, as early as we can, for our farmers,” said the HSI chairman.

The fodder scheme would be only open to equine farmers who are not in receipt of any other basic payment scheme (BPS). The Business of Breeding 2022 report found that 83% of breeders have less than 10 horses and 52% have no other farming enterprises such as beef or sheep for example.

With 27,000 registered equine premises nationwide, as many as 11,000 of these don’t receive any BPS and so are not eligible for existing fodder support measures taken by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2022.

Marketing and sales support bids

Meanwhile with the sale of Irish-bred horses to export markets in 2021 accounting for €394 million in export sales, HSI is also looking to the Government in the Budget to almost double their existing €850,000 in 2022 to €1.5 million for international marketing supports in 2023.

HSI’s Budget submission is also further seeking €1 million to create a sales incentive voucher scheme to encourage ownership of Irish-bred sport horses. HSI is proposing to create a sales voucher of €10,000 to 100 owners of Irish-bred winners at selected competitions (CSIO2* or lower) in show jumping, dressage or eventing across Europe. Eligible winners must be registered with a DAFM-approved studbook at birth and the horses must also have been sold at public auction or via an online Irish platform.