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Artificial breeding and cooled semen

It's gaining in popularity. Horseowners the world over can now breed their mare to a sire on the other side of the country or world without the mare or stallion ever having to leave the farm.

More and more breed associations are now allowing the use of artificial insemination. But, while it's often a cheaper, and more efficient method than natural service mare owners do need to be aware of a few points.

The advantages of using cooled, shipped semen are obvious. Shipping semen instead of the mare reduces cost, reduces the potential of injury and increases access to more stallions.

But there are down sides. Stallion owners have added management needs to schedule collections for shipping with the semen needs for on-farm breeding. Shipping semen also requires the stallion manager to develop technical skills in extending semen, evaluating semen morphology and determining the concentration of live, motile sperm cells in ejaculates.

Also, mares can't be settled unless live, viable semen is deposited at the appropriate time to ovulation.

As such, use of 'shipped' semen requires the mare owner to closely and accurately follow the estrous cycle of the mare. For the most part, use of ultrasound and excellent palpation skills by veterinarians are necessary to time the breeding for pregnancy from a single insemination.

An, obviously, the breeding manager must have excellent artificial insemination and collection techniques before starting a "shipped" semen program.

The process of extending, packaging and shipping semen is not difficult, and shouldn't be the limiting factor in success. Of more concern are items such as the apparent differences how well semen from different stallions maintains motility and viability with cooling and shipping. Also, accurate assessment of concentration must be made. Otherwise, mares may not be settled because of too low a dose of semen. Accurate assessment of concentration may require additional equipment such as spectrophotometers than is found in many breeding operations.

Expertise is also needed on the mare side of things (the receiving end). Accurate record keeping systems will aid in determining past estrous behavior, follicular dynamics and breeding success in individual mares.

Because the window of insemination is one to one and one half days prior to ovulation, close monitoring of the follicular status of the mare is essential.

Using teasing as the single tool to determine timing of breeding probably won't be enough. Palpation and ultrasound will most likely have to be used on successive days during estrus to determine when semen should be shipped.

Otherwise, ovulation will occur before insemination, or the shipped semen will become unusable because of too long a storage time past collection.

Most breeders will inseminate mares within 12 hours of receiving shipped semen. Motility and viability decreases dramatically within 24 hours post collection in semen of many stallions.

More information on the relative success of shipped semen should be available as breeding records, stallion reports and statistics on number of live foals are assessed and summarized by various breed associations.



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