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Counting Those that ‘Run for the Roses’

Posted by Lisa M. Ferguson, Public Affairs Specialist, NASS Eastern Mountain Region in Research and Science
Apr 30, 2018
Coco’s Wildcat protecting her filly
Coco’s Wildcat protects her filly, born recently at WinStar Farm. Pictured here, she’s less than 48 hours old. At WinStar, a team of veterinarians and horse experts monitor the mares 24 hours a day as they get closer to birth to ensure a smooth delivery.

The horse racing community and most Kentuckians may be champing at the bit to hear the pounding of the hooves the first Saturday in May, but here at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we’re focusing on counting all those horses and measuring the value of equine production and sales.

NASS is in the home stretch of collecting data for the 2017 Census of Agriculture, which is one of the few times we survey horse farms. That makes responding to the Census that much more important for all farms, equine and otherwise. NASS measures the value of production, but not of racing, and the Census collects data on equine sales, regardless of ownership and place, and on breeding or stud fees. We don’t collect data on boarding or other equine services.

The Census is an opportunity for the horse industry to show its economic impact. Knowing the number of horses and farms, other products grown on the farm, and about the people involved helps to understand the impact. It’s also an opportunity for other farmers and agricultural businesses to supply feed and other products needed for those horses.

According to Bethany Wurl, marketing coordinator for WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., WinStar sources most of their hay from surrounding states, but even as far as Montana and Michigan. The farm doesn’t produce enough of its own to feed the 550 to 600 horses living at WinStar. Although they buy locally as much as they can, it’s difficult for the farm to locally purchase the required 1,200 tons of hay each year in a region of the state full of horse farms.

The 2,500-acre WinStar Farm is a bit unique in the horse community, in that it touches every facet of the industry from breeding and breaking to training and rehabilitating. It employs 160 people, including trainers, riders, veterinarians, and the office staff dealing with accounting and marketing. It’s a busy operation with 100 horses out on the training track each day. There are 22 stallions that bred 2,700 mares last year. The farm’s 200 brood mares produced 178 foals in 2017.

WinStar currently has four horses on the Derby Trail. The ‘Derby Trail’ is a list of races that point horses to the Kentucky Derby by way of a points system. To qualify for the Kentucky Derby, a horse needs to earn at least 50 points to garner a spot in the starting gate. Quip, Noble Indy, Audible and Justify all represent WinStar Farm this year. You can find the complete list here:

In the race to finish the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS is collecting all that data and more and encourages all farmers to complete their Census online or to mail in their completed forms. As for the Kentucky Derby, many will don their biggest hats and best bowties, pull out the bourbon and mint leaves for a Mint Julep, and watch those thoroughbreds run for the roses on May 5.

Category/Topic: Research and Science