A horse breeder near Windsor, Ont., will distribute layoff notices to staff this week after dismal sales at the industry’s annual yearling auction.
Bob Ladouceur of St. Lad's Farms in Ruscom, Ont., sold seven standardbred horses for a loss at an auction in Dundas, near Hamilton.
“I’ll spend the week preparing layoff notices,” Ladouceur said.
He employs nine people.
“I doubt very much that most of them will be back,” Ladouceur said.
He said the average sale per animal at auction was down by more than 50 per cent from previous years.
“The sale was extremely poor. The attendance was way, way down,” Ladouceur said. “There was basically no profit made by the majority of the breeders.”
Ladouceur partially blames the provincial government’s decision to eliminate the slots-at-racetracks program. The revenue from slot machines at tracks was shared between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, track owners and the horse industry.
Once the program was eliminated, tracks, including Windsor Raceway, began to close.
Ladouceur still owns 16 colts and will continue to raise them.
“I have to continue to grow them and hope the Liberal government will give us a chance in our industry to make these animals functional as race horses. That’s the reason they were bred,” Ladouceur said.
Ladouceur isn’t sure who will want the horses. He said the market for pets is “saturated” because breeders are trying to sell off their horses.
“They won’t be able to be given away, let alone sold,” he said.
Last week, Ladouceur said the price of hay and grain have also contributed to the demise of the industry.
Farms with livestock are facing an expensive winter.
Hay is in short supply because of dry weather, and that's driving up the price.
Seana Holek is assistant manager at Ironstone Stables in Tecumseh, Ont.
"We probably only got about 50 per cent of what we usually get because there was no rain. So the cost of hay in itself is ridiculous right now, and even trying to get hay is ridiculous,” Holek said.
Ladouceur has spent 30 years in the industry. He has never seen the industry in this much trouble.
“It is the likely the darkest hours this industry has faced in many, many years,” he said.