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16 November 2021

Victoria Murrell from the award-winning Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association picks up on the opportunities for carbon storage and sequestration on stud farms.

The week of respite between the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales and their Horses in Training Sale is normally considered by the industry to be an opportunity to take a breath and catch-up with day-to-day admin. But not so this year for the TBA! We simultaneously launched the Equine Welfare Guidelines for the Thoroughbred Breeding Sector and scooped an innovation prize at the British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS) annual awards! The recognition was much appreciated and our environmental impact assessments and carbon calculations of two stud farms, performed by ADAS and funded by the Racing Foundation, have started to shape a digital guidance booklet for breeders that we hope will be released by the end of the year. A video presentation of the headline findings delivered at our AGM is available to view here

Environment front and centre

Writing about the environment feels quite timely, with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) currently underway in Glasgow. Whilst reflecting on the learnings from our environmental impact assessments, I am reminded of the rich biodiversity evident on both studs, with the broad variety of native species of trees, shrubs and hedging materials providing valuable habitats and corridors for wildlife. Often, only small enhancements are required to see further gains and a number of funding incentives exist, such as the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO), which provides grants for the planting and management of native trees in suitable locations; as well as the Woodland Improvement Scheme, which may provide funding opportunities for replacing non-native Sycamores (which are related to often fatal cases of Atypical Myopathy in young stock) with native varieties. 

The opportunities for carbon storage and sequestration on stud farms are considerable, with the careful management of soils to prevent any poaching or compaction becoming too extensive. Well rotten down manure can also be a rich source of organic matter to return to the soil.  We have been able to identify many practical tips from the farm assessments, which we look forward to sharing with breeders in the aforementioned guidance booklet and also within a mini-series of video discussions, to be hosted by James O’Donnell and filmed on location.  Having assisted with the production of the TBA’s free-to view video clips on best practice in relation to the health and wellbeing of breeding stock, I’m pleased to confirm that my cinematography aspirations remain firmly behind the camera, where my ability to provide clear direction (rather, bossiness) thrives!        

Opportunity to unite equine sector through learning

When I scroll through the British Eventing entries and results, to check on the progress of my pony, I am reminded of the opportunities that still exist for collaboration across the broader equine sector and we are making some early in-roads with productive meetings having taken place and learnings shared with other equine associations, whilst presentations have been made to other British equine passport issuing organisations.  

Thanks to the kind recommendation from a TBA member my current bedtime reading is Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown, which is truly inspiring. Sometimes different perspectives and challenges to our usual way of thinking can help push our boundaries and in this process will hopefully be a new system of balancing priorities, finances and human, equine and environmental considerations, to best optimise the sustainability of British breeding operations. The TBA hopes to guide members along this journey over the coming months and years. To read the first part of the TBA’s blog click here.

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