The National Equine Database (NED) will collapse unless more breed societies agree to supply pedigree data, the British Equestrian Federation’s consultant director of breeding has warned.
Graham Suggett, the driving force behind NED, told delegates at the National Equine Forum last week that resistance and protectionism among breed societies is threatening the database’s success.
DEFRA will fund NED for two years — starting nine months ago — after which it must pay its own way by selling data through its website. NED will pay competition bodies and breed societies for competition and pedigree data provided over and above that required by DEFRA.
“NED’s success depends first on voluntary provision of performance data. Having spoken to all main competition bodies, we are absolutely confident on this and competition data is flowing in nicely,” said Suggett.
“Second, we need verified pedigree data — and here we have met resistance. It is the only thing that links all the horses together, and unless we have sire and dam data, it will just be a list of half a million horses, which doesn’t mean anything.”
The deadline for Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs) to tell NED whether they will submit pedigree data is today (31 March), although they can reconsider. Last week, NED had received three positive responses out of around 70 breed societies, and one negative one.
Andrea Mercer, studbook manager at Weatherbys, which has about 150,000 live horses registered, said the organisation was still considering whether to provide data. “We’d prefer to have a formal contract because we’d need to make sure our data is safeguarded,” she said.
Suggett said that concerns centred around releasing information that has so far been restricted to members — “they think we’re going somehow to mess about with it” — data protection and the lack of a formal contract, which NED can’t provide until NED Society Ltd is up and running.
“I understand these fears, but most are unfounded and come down to a protectionist policy. The other one that comes up is ‘What do we get out of it? We’re doing quite nicely as we are.’ But that’s narrow-minded because we have to think of the whole industry,” he pointed out.
“Success depends on the volume of data sold — for instance, to the insurance industry, the overseas native pony market, for research and so on. If we don’t get enough performance and pedigree data, we won’t get enough sales, and therefore no income. There would still be a database, but it would be run by DEFRA and would not be available to the industry. PIOs will have to submit core data by law, but will get nothing back. I really urge breed societies to make use of this opportunity rather than let it collapse.”
Momenta, the company setting up the database, is test-running the system, which will be ready for PIOs to input and edit data in May, and open to the public as a website in July.