On the Farm
Table of Contents
- On the Farm
- Following the Pups
- The Time and Cost of Raising Race Dogs
- Raising Baby
On the Farm
This is where it all begins for a racing greyhound in North America. While not all farms are the same, our intent is to provide a general idea of life on the farm.
The puppies are born in special climate-controlled buildings that are able to house several mothers and their puppies.
The whelping boxes have room for the mothers to comfortably lie down and nurse their pups. There is also an area for the mothers to take time away from the litter to relieve themselves, eat, etc. The pups stay with their mother until they are weaned, usually between 6-10 weeks old, but often longer.
Once the pups are weaned, the litters are moved to large outdoor pens called runs. Here they play, dig, run, and have fun doing puppy things. The runs have shelters or dog houses filled with straw in the cooler weather to keep them warm. Fresh water is available at all times. There is no shortage of food as they are fed several times a day. Tarp canopies or trees provide shade in the warmer months and some farms even have misters, which continuously spray cold water, to keep the pups from getting too warm. Most farms also have kiddie pools in the runs for the dogs to lie, splash, and play in.
When they are older, they are separated into smaller groups or pairs, and are moved into larger runs, 300 ft. or longer. These fenced-in runs are generally parallel to each other, allowing the dogs to see one another, socialize, and chase each other along the fence line. All this sprinting helps to develop their fitness, strength, and agility, as well as burning off a lot of puppy energy. They are hardwired to chase, and the fence running helps refine it!
Preparation for the Track
When they reach 12 months, they are nearing the time to leave the farm for finishing.
To help them make the transition and get used to a race environment, they are housed in individual kennels and are turned out as a group. They are turned out four plus times a day, each turnout lasting 45-60 minutes. At this time, they are beginning their training to chase the lure and to run on an oval. Some farms have the facilities to train the dogs. Others send their dogs to training farms for field work (running or coursing in a sprint field), whirlygig work, and training on an oval.
While chasing and racing against the other pups in their litter comes instinctively to greyhounds, they need to begin to refine these skills. They are trained with squawkers to help them learn to chase the lure.
The whirlygig is a device with a long-arm that rotates and dangles the squawker with stuffed animals on it in front of the pups. It moves in a circular motion so that as the pups chase the squawker, they become familiar with running around a bend.
Interestingly, many people who adopt a retired racing greyhound purchase a squawker (just the noisemaker part) and keep it handy should their greyhound get loose. Since greyhounds are used to hearing this noise from a young age, they will often come running to it.
Socialization is a very important part of a greyhound’s development. As puppies, they are handled daily. The older ones are given plenty of attention as well. Many of the farms are a family affair, and the dogs benefit from the presence of everyone involved, including the children.
On to the Next Phase: The Track
By the time they are 15-16 months old, they are very close to being ready to race as their speed and endurance is significantly increasing. By 18 months, it’s time! How well the pup will do at the track generally won’t be known until they actually run in a race. To find out more about this stage of their life, visit our Off to the Races page for a general introduction to their life on the track.
Following the Pups
What better way to learn about a greyhound’s life than to follow a litter of pups through the entire course of their career? Greyhoundfacts.org is pleased to be able to follow two separate litters from two different farms, all the way from their birth on the farm, to racing on the track, and into retirement!
Oswald Cobblepot/LK’s Energizing litter from Blu Too Kennel. Whelped on 6/26/2014.
Paddy Whacker/Blazin Angelfire litter from Schmidt Greyhound Kennel. Whelped on 5/21/2014.
The Time and Cost of Raising Race Dogs
by Katherine Abatti ©2014
I am often asked if I have puppies for sale and what does it cost to raise a litter of race dogs. Everyone has their own program. I have no idea if it’s better or worse. I do what I do because it feels right. So here’s an inside view of the cost and time involved in our program at Blu Too.
I will base this on a litter of 7. This does not include the purchase cost of the dam or semen (enormous variables).
Transport to the vet and back for implant surgery and 1-3 weeks board at another facility while in season and being tested – $300.00
Vet costs for FS implant and brood care (progesterone tests, etc.) – $400.00 -$500.00
Here at Blu Too, we feed all pregnant broods, and all pups until 8 weeks of age, human-grade beef. It costs $3.99 a lb. at best, usually higher here because we mostly feed our own beef and there is a butcher/processing fee as well. Each girl eats approximately 2 lbs. per day of beef alone. Add in ProPlan kibble and all the extras we put in our feed – veggies, vitamins, cooked chicken, fish and so on – and it costs about $9.00 a day to feed one pregnant mama. $9 x 60 days= $540.00. 4 – 5 weeks of nursing costs $12.00 a day per brood (food amount increases) x 35 days of full nursing = $420.00. Moms also need vaccinations just prior to breeding, as well as deworming and defleaing during pregnancy – $15.00. Conservative mom pregnancy cost – $1725.00.
Ok… setting mom aside, and barring any extra vet care during pregnancy, here come the puppies…
Greyhounds spend a lot of time in the company of numerous other dogs. Vaccinations and deworming are key to keeping them healthy. Our puppies get 5 sets of pup shots, 3 kennel cough covers, and a rabies shot by 6 months. They get a booster at a year and another booster at the track before they can race.
That’s $93.94 for vaccines per pup. 7 x $93.94 = $657.58. We deworm at 2,3,4,6, and 8 weeks, then every month after. It costs approximately $40.00 per pup per year in dewormer. It takes 16 months to get to the track. So, we will call it $44.00 per pup. $44.00 x 7= $308.
We go through a LOT of puppy paper at our facility. Each litter uses approximately four boxes, from whelping to weaning. 4 x $75.00 = $300.00. Add puppy toys, rubber gloves, syringes, betadine, and the massive cost of a washer and dryer in constant use, keeping buildings at a constant temp with air conditioning and/or heat…about $300.00 per litter.
Now, we have to feed the littles. Weeks 5-7 cost about $1.00 per day per pup. That’s $7.00 a day for two weeks =$98.00. Weeks 7-9 = $1.30 a day x 7 = $127.40. By the 10th week our pups start to really eat and are fed like royalty. At 10-12 weeks it costs $1.50 a day x 7 = $147.00. At 3-4 months of age, $1.75 per day x 7 = $367.50. At 4-6 months, $1.90 a day x 7 = $798.00. At 6 months to a year, $2 per day per pup x 7 = $420 per month (6 months = $2,520.00). At one year of age, the dogs are fed a highly specialized diet. Adding supplements is expensive. It’s approximately $2.75 per day per pup at this time x 7 = $19.25 per day. 4 months x $19.25 a day = $2,310.00.
Most pups are in training by 8 months of age. The cost until a year old is $100.00 a month x 7= $700.00. 4 months x $700.00 = $2,800.00. Pups are then moved into a race kennel, and the cost per pup increases to $150.00 a month x 7 = $1050.00 per month. 4 months x $1050.00 = $4,200.00. Now you are ready to transport your pups to the track. 7 x $105.00 transport= $735.00.
The time involved is unbelievable. We have four people who work around the clock for 12-hr. shifts until all pups are 8 weeks old. At 8 weeks, we catch a breath and work 6-hr. shifts with nights off. At the very least, all pups are gone over, picked up after, fed, walked, and turned out several times a day. When they are old enough and training begins, we add sprinting, schooling, rundowns, etc.
Assuming you have no vet bills and no set backs of any kind and you are a family-owned operation that is not paying employees, your wonderful litter of race pups should cost you only around -are you ready?- $18,000 to raise.
Have you ever wondered how your Greyhound was raised as a puppy? One curious owner decided to find out.
By Joee Kam
Sometimes when I watch my retired racers, I wonder what they were like when they were puppies and how their life was before I adopted them. I’d ask myself questions, like: Did he steal toys and keep them for himself? Was he the one who instigated play and antagonized the others? Did he learn to dig those craters on the farm? I was curious and wanted to know more so I contacted several Greyhound farmers and asked questions.
One farmer in particular, Melissa Schmidt, really touched me with the story of how her determination to start a farm came to be. “I fell in love with this breed after literally spending one evening at a Greyhound farm. After the first time seeing them, I begged my husband every day for four years to let me get into the Greyhound business. That is approximately 1,460 days! He finally gave in.”
National Greyhound Association (NGA) Greyhounds are born on farms, in climate-controlled buildings where they stay with their mothers until they are between six and ten weeks old, and occasionally longer. Once they are weaned, the entire litter moves to a large outdoor pen, known as a run. There they can play until they tire themselves out, take a nap, and do it all over again. Typically, Greyhound puppies stay with their littermates on the farm for a year.
Her pups have a variety of toys to play with: stuffed animals, braided ropes, tug-of-war toys, rubber tires, and balls. Of course, they also dig (perfecting their techniques in creating those large holes that drive us crazy), roll around, and run, just like they do in our backyards. During this time, they also start “figuring out pecking order and how to negotiate, mediate, pick on each other, and establish who the boss is – all the things they are going to need for the real world,” Melissa said, adding it’s similar to what we do at home with our siblings.
Greyhound puppies have dog houses filled with straw, to keep them warm in cooler weather, and have fresh water available at all times, not just for drinking, but for playing, too. Most farms have kiddie pools in which the dogs can lay, splash, and play. During the warmer months of spring and into the heat of the summer, sprinklers mist the runs to keep the dogs cool.
As the pups grow older, they are separated into smaller groups and moved into larger runs. They generally start in 100 ft. runs, then move to runs that are 200 ft. As they get older, they finally grow into runs that are 300 ft. long or longer. The fenced-in runs are usually parallel to each other, so the dogs can socialize and chase each other along the fence lines.
Greyhound farms often have visitors, which the dogs are always happy to see. If you’ve never been to a farm, remember to wear long sleeves and long pants to protect your bare skin. Greyhound puppies have sharp teeth and nails and can’t wait to include you in their play. They’re not called “land sharks” for nothing!
An important part of a puppy’s development is socialization. Greyhound puppies are handled every day, and the older ones are also given attention throughout the day. Melissa has six children, aged 6 to 17, who all play a big role on the farm. They help socialize the pups from the minute they are born. The children help with tattooing, worming, vaccinating, walking, and moving the pups to new runs. They also routinely bring puppies into their home to give them some extra attention. After all, who could resist those adorable faces?
Worrying about the health and well-being of the dogs is also a part of a Greyhound farmer. “I do worry a lot about safety, but more so about the heat or air conditioning going out,” Melissa said. “I have alarmed my buildings for temperature controls. I couldn’t even sleep at night, worrying about it getting too hot or too cold for the pups and broods.” Notices are sent to her cell phone if the temperature in the buildings changes significantly. To her it’s peace of mind.
Melissa also said she feels very strongly about her responsibility to Greyhound adoption. She does regular hauls to adoption groups for free, and helps them whenever she can. Each time a brood is adopted, she provides all of its vaccinations, pays for a health certificate, and gives the adoption group a healthy donation.
Being a Greyhound farmer is a tough, but rewarding occupation. Being on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is just like being the parents of children, but on a larger scale. Most days start between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and don’t end until approximately 10 p.m. Between feedings, changing water buckets, turnouts, sweeping, picking up after the dogs, and disinfecting and hosing down pens, there’s still more to do. So why is Melissa a Greyhound farmer you might ask?
“I do what I absolutely love. It radiates from every cell of my body, beginning from my heart,” she explained. She adds that her favorite place to be is “in the brood barn and the whelping barn. You just can never be in a bad or sad mood around any of them”.
“Getting to work every day with the most beautiful, graceful, gentle, funny, loving, and loyal animals on the planet,” witnessing the birth of their amazing babies, and watching the pups they raise turn into mothers and athletes is the ultimate reward for their labor of love.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit a farm, ask as many questions as you can, while watching the happy hounds doing what they love to do – dig, play and run.
About the author: Joee Kam and her family adopted their first retired racing Greyhound in 2004. They currently share their Grand Rapids, Michigan home with Sasha, a Golden Retreiver, and Joy (AJN Joy Lee). Joee is the founder and president of the non-profit Greyhound Facts Inc.