Last year, amongst many other things, I bred a ghost mojave to a 100% het ghost black pastel spider (black bee). Sounds like a cool pairing, right? To my knowledge the ghost mojave black bee hasn’t been produced yet and I was gunning to be the first. With eight eggs in the incubator I was feeling optimistic; all I needed was a little love from the Odds Gods and I would hit on something amazing to share with the world. I watched with hopeful anticipation as the eggs finally pipped. And like a popped water balloon I felt the excitement rushing out of my body as I checked the contents of each egg. Disappointment. Disappointment. Disappointment. To say that I got murdered on the odds was a bit of an understatement. But I didn’t just miss on the ghost mojave black bee. The clutch didn’t produce a single ghost black bee, honey bee, ghost mojave, ghost black pastel, black bee, black pastel or spider. The clutch yielded a few regular ghosts, a mojave het ghost, some normal hets and a single female mojave black pastel het ghost. ‘Brutal’ is the only word I can think to describe my treatment by the odds. As clutches go, it was an epic fail.
I’m pretty much over it now, of course, but I was feeling pretty picked-on that day. Missing so badly on the odds was one thing but I rubbed salt in my own wounds when I thought about the time, money and effort I had put into the parents; both of which I had raised from hatchlings. All I could think about was how financially invested I was and how the production yielded nothing better than I could have made with a much less genetically impressive pairing. For this clutch I was producing at a level that was genetically many seasons earlier than where I should have been. With money on the line, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Misses like this one are a seasonal reminder that ball python breeding is packed full of randomness and chance. When you swing for the fences you run the risk of striking out. And I’m doing it again this season. I have pairings that have the potential to make some truly amazing things …if I can hit on the odds. But when I hit on something big I’m notorious for holding it back; very little of my highest-end production makes its way into the collections of others. Yes, sir! I’m a morph hoarder. And every year I rely on a lot of luck to take me to the next level. Luck, unfortunately, is a fickle friend.
Producing something next-level is a relative thing. The animals that I am lamenting missing on today will be commonplace in the near future. Perspective is important. But lately I have been contemplating the intelligence of trying to hit on long odds. The wisdom behind the answer to my contemplations can only be had after-the-fact, when I am looking at the results of my production. My decision will be interpreted as shrewd if I meet or beat what the Punnett Square suggests. When I miss on the odds I can’t do anything other than think that I chose poorly. But why did I try for such long odds in the first place? Three reasons:
- To make money
- To take my collection to the next level.
- I can’t afford to buy the super-crazy, cutting edge, designer morphs.
If I produce something amazing there is a pretty good chance that it will become a permanent resident in my collection, something I plan to use in the future to take me to even higher levels. I’m using genetic luck to kite myself to ever higher heights. The fact that I keep the coolest stuff I produce means that I am letting the betterment of my collection trump my desire to make money.
I’m starting to think that I shouldn’t be doing it this way. As time goes by I am beginning to realize that it’s not smart business to try a hit tiny sweet spots and incredibly long odds. This is especially true considering my admission that I’m just going to keep the best of the best that I produce. The more intelligent bet is to re-align my pairing strategy to maximize the production of genetically less impressive (and statistically easier to produce) animals. I wouldn’t produce much in the way of super-amazing combinations but I would produce a lot of moderately-priced, easy-to-sell, animals. And if you don’t already know, it is fairly easy to sell lots of animals that are $1,000 and under before you sell a single $3,000+ animal. The pool of buyers increases many-fold when the price falls to a certain point (usually under $1K). This means that if I stop trying to go next level on every pairing and start trying to maximize lower-end morph production I will have many more babies to sell …and then I can buy the super-crazy morph from someone else who did take the chance. Let someone else swing for the fence …and miss. But I’ll be there, with cash in-hand, when they hit. Let them be the one’s who count on long odds while I produce lower-end animals in greater quantity, sell them easily and quickly find myself with all the cash I need to buy the morphs I covet. I can sidestep the brutality of the odds, letting somebody else take all of the risk; I lose nothing when they miss and stand to gain when they hit. There are plenty of people out there who are trying to hit on long odds. Most of them will miss. But some will hit on something silly-cool. They took the risk, not me. And by not even trying to do it I am guaranteeing that I won’t be one of the disappointed many that misses on them. But, because I have so much desirable and affordable production to sell, I can safely conjure the cash (or trade) to make their animal my reality. And the best part is that it’s still a win/win; everybody makes money. I’m just doing more to guarantee mine.
This all makes a lot of financial sense. But in the end I’m not sure I can do it. The desire to make something cool, despite how painful it is when I miss, is a really tantalizing lure. It frequently overrides my desire to make money. I guess that means that this is more than just a business to me.