Can a codom/incdom be a "het"? Are there recessives at all or are all genes codoms?
Let me clarify things a bit for you guys. When we are talking about phenotypes/visual appearances in snake genetics, we are talking about mutations on the snakes' genes or probably more specifically, alleles. Genes are what make up chromosomes. Humans have tens of thousands of genes on our 23 chromosomes (some animals and even plants have more). They are a set of instructions on how to build the organism.
Since most animals get genetic information from each parent, most animals have one allele from father and one allele from mother, together called a gene. If one of these two alleles are different, the gene is heterozygous. If the two alleles are the same, the gene is homozygous. Recessive and codom/incdom are simply terminology. People get in a fuss over nothing but semantics, really. Both terms, recessive and codom/incdom, can be either heterozygous or homozygous. For example, a Pastel is heterozygous because it has one "Pastel" allele and one wild type allele. A het Albino is heterozygous because is has one "Albino" allele and one wild type allele. A super Pastel is homozygous because it has two "Pastel" alleles. Similarly, an Albino is homozygous because it has two "Albino" alleles.
Now, recessive is simply a term to describe a situation where the heterozygous gene (two different alleles- normal from one parent and morph from the other) DOES NOT express a mutated phenotype (visual expression) and appears the same as a wild type (normal). Codom/incdom is simply a term to describe a situation where the heterozygous gene (two different alleles- normal from one parent and morph from the other) DOES express a mutated phenotype (visual expression) and appears DIFFERENT than a wild type (normal).
People generally use an obvious and easy to distinguish gene (allele) such as a Pastel or Albino as an example here. Pastel is codom/incdom and Albino is recessive. Where some people disagree is, for example, the situation that arises in Piebalds. It is very well known that Pieds sometimes have what people call "markers" or clues that the supposed "Normal/Wild Type" appearing snake has one allele that is Pied, making the snake "het for Pied". Some people call these "tram lines" or track lines" or similar. Because some mutations that are historically and commonly considered recessive do often have less noticeable phenotypical variances (visual expressions), there are some people who believe that ALL mutations have "markers" or varying phenotypes (visual expressions). These people say "There are no recessives, only codoms/incdoms." because they think they can spot "markers" in every snake generally considered het recessive.
The problem is that "recessive" and codom/incdom" are just terms, not precisely defined definitions. If recessive was defined as "an allele with a phenotype having the appearance observably unidentifiable by a random group of 9 out of 10 people whom hold the the certification of "Masters in Python regius Identification", we would not have this problem that I am spending an hour of my day explaining! Since we do not have that definition, just take the terminology with a grain of salt. Maybe all recessive snakes have markers that we are just not trained to see, maybe not. I highly doubt it but if people want to think they can pick out het albinos from normals 99% of the time, let them think so. Maybe they're gifted or highly trained and see something we don't. Still, the populous doesn't see it and its just general terminology. Thanks!
In this blog, I want to talk a about the current pricing of ball pythons in the market and how many lie within certain price ranges, that I will sort-of subjectively make up. As far as I know, the best way to track the numbers and prices of ball pythons listed for sale in the industry is with the website www.morphmarket.com. This isn’t a plug for them (though I do use and love them- that’s a plug) but it is the most popular site that gives you numbers of listing and allows you to adjust search parameters based on price.
Of course, using this source exclusively has several flaws. For example, the website is optional for anyone to use and will be subject to certain ebbs and flows based on the site’s marketing, popularity, competition, etc. Also, as anyone who uses the site knows, you often fall behind on updating your inventory, both adding new stuff and removing snakes that have sold. There are also certain cyclical variables that won’t be accounted for, such as breeding cycles, major gift-giving holidays, tax season, etc. This blog isn’t intended to be an account of the entire year or a judgement of the current state of the industry. It is simply a snap-shot in time. I think repeating this process several times a year, at key intervals, would be interesting and more valuable to judge the overall health of the market (hint hit John).
So, let’s get to it. Currently there are 7,696 ball pythons listed for sale on Morph Market. Is that a lot? Regular tracking and increased popularity of the site will better enable us to judge that in the future. A simple division among the number of US states results in only 153 ball pythons for sale per state. I am sure there are several thousand ball pythons per local Repticon show. So, I know that 7,696 is not a good representation of what’s available. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a poor representation of pricing. Let’s start to break down those numbers into pricing groups.
The first price range $10,000 and over. As of this writing (April 30th, 2017), there are only 7 ball pythons in this price range. One of those is not a real listing, as I spoke to the owner by coincidence yesterday about it. So, we are down to 6 listings with the most expensive being listed at $15,000. I know there are a few ball pythons for sale in the US above that price, such as visual Sunsets. I recently verified a sale above that price point. However, except for just a handful, I believe this is a realistic upper limit as of this writing. Overall, this segment represents less than eight hundredths of one percent.
The second price range is $5,000 to $9,999. In this group, there are a total of 52 listings. Within this group, seven listings are $8,000 or above and 45 are from $5,000 to $7,500. Overall, this group represents less than seven tenths of one percent. If we lump these first two groups together, they account for less than eight tenths of one percent of the current listings.
The third price range I chose because, in my experience, the buyers purchasing snakes over $3,000 are also often buyers for snakes in the $4k-$5k range. In the $3k to $4,999 range, there are currently 109 listings. That represents just 1.4 percent of the total listings on Morph Market. So far, all of the snakes listed over $3,000 make up 2.2% of all of the listings. That means almost 98% of all ball pythons have an asking price of less than $3,000.
From $2,000 to $2,999 there are 185 listings that represent 2.4% of the total listings on Morph Market. All ball pythons over $2,000 account for 4.6% of the total ball pythons for sale.
Now, this is where it starts to pick up. From $1,000 to $1,999 there are 606 current listings, representing 7.9% of the total population on Morph Market. What shocks me a little bit is that the ball pythons available for sale right now over $1,000 still make up only 12.5% of the market! In other words, 87.5% of all ball pythons for sale are under $1,000!
In the range of $500 to $999 there are 1,384 active listings. Now we get to take a chunk out of the pie. This group represents 18% of the current listings.
Finally, the lowest group is the $1 to $499 range. There are 5,347 ball pythons currently listed for sale in this segment and it represents 69.5% of the population. This is obviously the bulk of the listings. By default, these are the most affordable by the most amount of people and byproduct comes into play here.
So, what does this all mean? I honestly don’t know. I could give you some statements here but they would all be conjecture. All I know for sure is the facts. There are not many ball pythons listed on Morph Market over $5,000. I wish I had the historical data to compare 2010, 2013, etc. Then, it might be interpret-able. Are there fewer ball pythons worth over $5,000 than there were 5 years ago? Are people producing fewer high-end combos because the market dipped recently? Are there fewer new genes available at the moment (after-all, it is very early in the hatching season)? Is it all of these things?
If you’re a smart investor, you are probably asking yourself what you should do with this data, how can you use this to better effectively produce and sell ball pythons. I asked myself those same questions. Should I produce more high-end snakes to fill the void in availability? Should I produce more low-end snakes to participate more in the largest segment? Should I ignore all of this and produce whatever I want? Again, I can’t claim to know the answers.
I do think this data completely ignores one very important aspect of the business: you. Each of us has our own brand, our own type of clientele. Some breeders are known for producing inexpensive snakes for wholesale or for pet stores. Others have a reputation for very expensive snakes, either multiple gene new combos or perhaps they constantly buy or import new genes. Some breeders pick one gene and work the hell out of it. I think the story about you is more important than what’s being produced in the market. You do actually have influence over pricing, over standing apart from the crowd. You can choose to breed genes together that have not been bred together before and possibly produce something extremely desirable. You can take risks on imports, put in the years of effort, and maybe hit on something that no one else has. So, while I think the data is interesting, I am not sure it is usable at this point, and perhaps it never will be. For now, I think you’ll have to continue to rely solely on your best judgment.
For my thoughts on what genes to invest in, check out my previous blog post: https://www.thefloridareptileranch.com/blogs/blog/ball_python_breeding_advice
I recently heard someone say they can't wait to buy a building or lease space to have a "professional" set up. I thought I would put my 1.5 cents in here...
When I started breeding ball pythons as a business, I already had an office warehouse where I operated my other businesses out of. I had some extra space and that was one of the reasons I decided to venture into ball pythons. Then, when I moved back home to Florida, it was the same story. I needed an office to run my other businesses and now had over a thousand ball pythons and definitely had to have an office for that as well.
About eight months after moving home, I decided to use a logistics company for my other businesses and I was left with an office solely for the snakes. The rent was $1800 a month and with expenses and gas to and from work, etc., I was looking at about $2400 a month. That equates to almost $30,000 a year just from the office expense side of ball pythons. I don't know about you, but there are a lot of other things I would rather spend $30,000 on than having a nice "professional" office for my snakes, who don't give a damn what the facility looks like.
So, I decided to sell off some of the collection and move everything into my 3 car garage. The floors are cement, the lighting sucks, I have a window HVAC unit and I have to park my vehicles outside. But, you know what? I get to spend $30,000 more a year on acquiring new genes and furthering the potential of my business. I can't make videos showing off my nice facility like Ben Renick can, but my company's products can now get a whole lot better, if I wish them to. Or, I can take a nice vacation to Hawaii or Australia, or anywhere in the world and still put $25K in the bank or into snakes or anything else!
So, don't let the videos of people's facilities sway you into making financial decisions that aren't going to increase your bottom line. Focus on the snakes, focus on your customers and build your business. Keep your overhead as low as possible! Then, one day if you're in a really good place, you can look into a nice set up. In the mean time, use your extra bedroom, use your garage, fix up that shed...and save a boat load of cash! I haven't sold any fewer snakes because I work out of my garage now.
I often see threads or receive messages asking with what ball python genes a beginner should choose. In forums, the most common answer given to this question is to simply choose the genes you enjoy and work with those. The reasoning typically given with this answer is that no matter what happens, you will produce snakes you enjoy looking at. Well, that is partially true, but I'm going to tell you why I would never suggest that route if your intentions are to make a profit.
One of the problems with the above approach is that even when working with only your favorite genes, you still end up hatching out many snakes you may not want to work with. For example, I still hatch out normals as a byproduct of my intended genes or combos. I sure as hell don't want to work with normals as part of a business. Yes, they are still beautiful, and yes they are still animals, but a major point of most businesses is to make a profit, and it is very difficult to make a profit with these byproduct genes. So, even if you purchase your favorite genes, it's likely you are going to be hatching out genes you don't want to work with anyways.
Let's get to the most important explanation. I'll start this off with an anecdote. I am currently building a new business and website, and in the process I was interviewing marketing companies. One marketing company I was speaking to mentioned to me that they also offer complimentary website design with the purchase of their higher tier package. They do this because they have built hundreds of websites in the past and they simply provide you with a dozen templates to choose from, based on their best previous work. They pick the templates not based on their designer's opinions of what looks best, not on how the customers rated the designs and functionality and not on any other inconsequential reasoning. They chose the templates to make available based on conversion rates. Simplistically, conversion rates are the rates at which visitors become customers. In other words, it does not matter what the owner of the company likes, it does not matter what the designers like, it only matters what the customers like. That is how this marketing company decided what website designs were best. One would be prudent to follow the advice of this company.
For some reason many ball python breeders don't like to view the ball python business as a business. Perhaps this is because for almost everyone it started out as a hobby. I think, unless you want to continue breeding snakes as a hobby, you should stop treating your business as a hobby. So, your favorite gene is the Black Pastel? Well, get a pet Black Pastel and hold it every day, staring longingly into its eyes. But for heavens sake, don't produce Black Pastels and expect to make any money. After all, you are not breeding most of these snakes to keep for yourself. So, it doesn't matter what you think! Owning a business doesn't mean you're working for yourself. What it really means is that you are working directly for your customer.
I've never heard a stock broker suggest to his client that he pick the stocks to buy based on what companies he likes. That would be ridiculous. You purchase companies based off of a system of performance, almost always included is profits or some alternative measure of profits, atleast in any fundamental approach.
Now, before you go off saying Mike Freedman doesn't even like the snakes he breeds, let me tidy this up a bit. I slightly over exaggerated the above paragraphs to make a point. The great part about ball pythons is that most of the genes, atleast to me, are awesome looking. I bet most of you agree. So, by starting off your ball python breeding company by choosing trending genes doesn't mean you're going to be working with snakes you don't like or that aren't attractive. Afterall, they are trending or popular because they DO look awesome.
The other great thing about working with snakes is that we get to choose a bunch to work with, not just one snake. So, you can get 80% of the trending genes and 20% of the stuff you really love, despite the current state of the market. This way, you can make new combinations with your favorite genes that might really change how people see that gene.
Finally, don't have a stigma when it comes to animals and money. There is nothing wrong with making money off of animals. Only when people put money before the health and happiness of the animal does it become a problem. Without money, you cannot convert your hobby into something that pays your bills. If you are not paying all of your bills with snake sales, you cannot breed snakes for a living.