Thinking of Importing Semen?

by Lee Cox

The service fee is only the beginning…

When people say to me that they are looking at importing semen I wonder if they really know what is in store. Five years ago after reading reports on the success rates of using Artificial Insemination I was not exactly rushing out to try it. However when I decided to breed my mare, she was in Queensland and the stallion I wished to use was based in Sydney. I decided to give it a try.

There are many factors in a successful conception using fresh, chilled or frozen semen. The main factor from my experience is the people involved at both ends. Whatever people tell you about the post thaw mortility rates it is the conception rate that is the most important.

After several attempts at getting a pregnancy I eventually abandoned the idea and sent the mare to Sydney to be served naturally. On a 60 day positive test she came home.

When it came time to rebreed her, we decided to try A.I. using fresh semen. We were successful and this encouraged me to look worldwide for a stallion to use the following season. I was captivated by a stallion in the USA and proceedings began to import semen.

New Zealand has some of the most stringent health standards in the world, our laws relating to quarantine are set out in an extensive document that must be followed to the letter. When the semen was collected, it was done to the exact instruction of the health standard. This meant the stallion had to go into quarantine at a quarantine facility outside the farm. This is an exercise in itself of which the requirements are also included in the heath standard. Unfortunately due to the WAHO, AHRA conflict I was not able to bring the semen into NZ.

We then decided to repeat the previous breeding. However the stallion had left the country so we used frozen semen. My vet examined my mare every eight hours once we established a follicle was present. When it had reached 4 cm we inseminated her with the frozen semen. Six hours later my vet came to check whether she had ovulated. She hadn't so we repeated the insemination. My vet again checked her later that evening and this time she had ovulated. We were fortunate to get a pregnancy on the first cycle.

With the WAHO, AHRA issue in regard to importing and exporting now resolved through the formation of the new Purebred Arabian Registry the wheels again set into motion. I again attempted to import the semen however the health standard had changed! NZ now required CEM tests to be performed at three day intervals while the stallion was in quarantine, whereas previously these tests were not required. Fortunately when the semen was being collected, it was also collected for other countries that did require these tests. We still had a minor problem as the tests were done every seven days instead of every three however we were able to obtain a certificate of equivalence. Finally the semen was cleared for export and arrived in Christchurch.

So far the costs we can expect to incur are:

service fee (plus the cost
of extra straws if
you want them)
$2000 US and up
Collection and quarantine costs
Varies (thousands)
Storage costs
Varies
MAF import permit
$250
MAF clearance fee
$55
Customs GST tax on goods
$500 (average)
Frozen semen container rental
$150 US
International health certificate
$150 US
USDA H.C. Endorsement fee
$50 US
Courier documents
$44 US
Administration fee
$250 US
International airfreight
$300 US
Courier for semen
$85 US
US Customs clearance
$175 US
NZAHBS insemination permit
$10
Tolls, faxes etc…
Varies
*US dollar at the moment is almost double.

This is only the beginning. Your transport costs alone can be in excess of $3000. This is over and above your service fee and collection costs and you still have vet fees associated with inseminating the mare. If you manage to get your mare pregnant first cycle you could expect a bill around the $500 to $700 mark depending on travel costs and the number of visits.

It is a worthwhile exercise as it makes bloodlines and stallions from all around the world available. Even though the costs are expensive by NZ standards, it is a very economic way of getting a foal by the stallion you want considering the price of horses in Europe, the USA and Australia without the additional expense of transport.

Having just been through this financially draining exercise I would recommend importing frozen semen if:

One last piece of advice is that if you do decide to import semen, buy additional straws. Your live foal guarantee applies to the service fee only and should include at least four free straws. If you need additional straws you will have to pay for them. It may seem an added expense at the time, but it is much more cost effective if you find you have used your straws and you still haven't got a pregnancy considering the expense in getting the semen from the country of origin to NZ.