The ball python business, like all businesses, is evolving. I have seen a lot of changes and, through them all, I have endeavored to remain optimistic. That optimism has proved legitimate as the industry continues to be very good to me. Despite my love of the hobby (business) I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses; I regularly contemplate the negative aspects of being a reptile breeder and attempt to make sure I am doing what I can to mitigate them.
On a seemingly different note,
I have more than a few opinions in support of for-profit animal husbandry. On many occasions I have shared some of those opinions in the blog posts and articles I write. And as you might expect I receive a lot of comments. Most of them are emailed directly to me and most of them are decidedly supportive. But sometimes people come after me with varying levels of aggression and disdain for what I do. Some dislike my love of capitalism and attack me for charging more than $20 for any ball python I produce. They suggest that all ball pythons, even the incredibly rare and difficult to produce multi-gene morphs, should be available to everybody regardless of their ability to afford one. “Unto each according to their need“, is the message buried in their words. Intentionally twisting Karl Marx’s inane words I respond by saying, “No.
“Because they know all they sold ya’ was a guaranteed piece of shit. That’s all it is, isn’t it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time.”
Several weeks ago I read posts on the Burmese Python Forums (Small Burms and Fake Hypos) that discussed sellers on some notable reptile classified web sites offering both dwarf and hypo Burmese that really were not what they claim. Apparently someone was selling hypo-like animals that were not genetic hypos and dwarf burms that were not genetic dwarves. This sort of stuff is fairly common and I see it every now and then in the ball python market. I’m sure it happens in every little crevice of the reptile world.
The Odds… The Odds…
Like gamblers in Vegas, ball python breeders sit at the table each and every year and play the odds. And each year we bet on increasingly long one’s. We have to. Competition is increasing, prices are fickle and our desire to make something magical is insatiable. In many ways the designer morph business is a competitive sport and the release of the second edition of John Berry’s book has put all of us on notice. The first time I sat down and flipped through its pages all I could think was, “I’m gonna’ need a bigger boat.” More so than ever I see the heights to which I need to elevate my game. All that and there are several existing combos that didn’t make it into the book and photographic contributions from a few of the bigger names in the business were missing.
Note: Before reading this you need to know a few things:
- Compared to the average blog post this is long …very long. It’s more like a chapter than a blog post.
- The purpose of this post is not to try and discourage ball python breeders. Quite the opposite, actually. I am enthusiastic about the prospects of this business and I want people who decide to be in it, myself included, to understand the consequences of their choices and adjust their behavior in order to allow an opportunity for profit.
- I am neither an economist nor an accountant. I’m just a guy with a spreadsheet and an opinion; a perspective for your consideration.
By my standards and expectations last year was a tough breeding season. In addition to losing a few key clutches during incubation I had an amazing number of clutches that bludgeoned me on the odds. At times it was depressing. But one thing that all breeders rely on is the fact that sooner or later the odds tend to swing around in their favor. It’s the nature of averages; sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. Last season wasn’t all bad, though. I had a few moments that really stood out. My perspective is arguably tainted, mind you. With very few exceptions I do not try to produce single-gene carrying animals and producing things like black pewters, albino spiders, super pastels, and bumble bees has become business as usual. While I am certainly very glad to produce those animals I have my genetic sights set much higher. As I type two-gene animals are a common (but often still pricey) staple of the industry while the immediate future is in 3, 4 and 5-gene animals. To steal the words of a friend of mine, “I’m not in this for socialist reasons. In this business there will be winners and losers.