The stud season is now in full swing, you may have a mare about to foal or a mare who has recently had a foal, if however you are contemplating getting your mare in foal next year it’s worth doing the research early. The initial stages require a lot of decisions but once those are made we will endeavour to make sure that it is plain sailing from there on. The questions needing answers are: Who? Where? And How?
It is important that your mare is in good health, with no outstanding conditions that would prevent her from carrying a foal to full term. Remember that there is an increase in weight through pregnancy so a lame or laminitic mare might struggle from this respect.
Whether your mare has had previous foals, or this will be her first one, a pre-breeding examination is vital. This involves finding out her previous breeding history and a general physical examination, including scoring of her vulval conformation. A good vulval conformation ensures a good seal to the lips of the vulva and the vulva is vertical. As a mare gets older/has more foals the vulval edges begin to slope towards the anus and the seal deteriorates, this predisposes her to uterine infections and reduces breeding success. A clitoral swab needs to be taken at the beginning of each breeding season, to test for the venerally (sexually) transmitted diseases
-Taylorella equigenitalis (Contagious Equine Metritis)
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
A blood sample is taken at the same time to test for Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA). The majority of studs will want evidence of negative results of both these tests before allowing the mare to be covered or to go to stud. It will be your responsibility to check with the stud which tests are required.
THE SIRE…. Which stallion to use?
Once your mare has passed the pre-breeding examination, the next step involves more questions:
What type of foal are you trying to produce? Do you want to use a local stallion or one abroad? What type of semen is available from that stallion – natural cover or Artificial Insemination (AI)? Fresh, Chilled, or Frozen semen? Are your mare and your situation suitable for the type of semen available? How will you get the mare covered or the semen to the mare? What are the costs involved?
The internet can provide extensive information about the stallion’s performance record, semen availability, and the type of semen. This may affect your choice of sire if there is a budget, as frozen semen requires more complicated, accurate insemination and is therefore more expensive. Or if you had a particular method in mind and that type of semen is unavailable from that stallion due to his competition schedule then he may not be the one to use. However most studs are more than welcoming and visiting potential sires can be a good way to assess suitability for combination with your mare. Remember that your mare is only half of the equation, so look for traits that the stallion passes on that will compliment your mare and potentially breed what you have in mind.
I often hear terms such as chilled and frozen semen, what do they mean?
Semen can be used in different forms, this variety allows a wider distribution of semen and more options to the mare owner.
Fresh semen: semen is collected, extended and maintained at approximately 20°C. The semen can be transported but must be inseminated into the mare within 3 hours. Ideal for local stallions, the mare owner can collect the semen and bring it straight to the mare.
Chilled semen: semen is collected, extended and chilled to 4°C. The semen can then be transported but must be inseminated within 24-36 hours. This allows for over night transport from Europe.
Frozen semen: semen is collected, extended and frozen and stored at -197°C in liquid nitrogen. This allows the semen to be stored indefinitely. If the stallion has had his semen frozen it allows the use of it even when he is competing or after he has died.
Artificial insemination (AI) is the increasingly popular in the United Kingdom in non-thoroughbred horses. AI is most frequently used at studs or vet practices, though some fresh and chilled inseminations can be done at home if the conditions are suitable.
1) Natural service – This requires the mare to be at the stud and may lead to an extended stay away if she is not in foal the first time or if the exact state of her cycle is not known prior to going to stud.
2) AI – fresh/chilled semen – Using this technique the semen needs to be inseminated within 8-12hours of ovulation and there can be quite a lot of juggling the timings of the mares ovulation with the arrival and availability of the semen. Requiring a significant amount of communication between the stud and the mare’s vet to get the optimum timing.
3) AI – frozen semen – To increase conception rates, with this method, the semen should be inseminated within 6 hours of ovulation and so repeated ultrasound scans are required, often through the night, and hence the mare needs to be where the vets are!
So why may AI be better for your mare over natural cover?
You can chose stallions at stud abroad
Increased choice of stallions to use
There is reduced risk of injury for the mare, stallion and handlers involved
Reduced risk of venerally transmitted infection
Mares with previous breeding injuries can be used
Older mares that are more susceptible to non-venereal uterine infections after natural cover have an increased chance of conceiving if they are artificially inseminated.
The semen is delivered to the stud so you don’t have to go to the stallion
Remember if your horse is a thoroughbred and you want it to race under Jockey Club rules artificial insemination is NOT allowed.
Is every mare suitable for each type of semen?
No, and the main reason for this is the quality of semen varies depending on the storage process. In both fresh and chilled semen we aim for 80% of the semen to be highly motile just prior to insemination. However this figure is much lower for frozen semen at 40%. This is due to the freezing and thawing process damaging the sperm. As there are fewer highly motile sperm in a frozen dose the mare must be of optimal fertility (age, good vulval conformation, one that does not retain fluid post insemination) and specialist insemination techniques to be used. The technique used routinely at B&W Equine Group for the insemination of frozen semen is known as deep uterine insemination (DUI) which delivers the sperm next to the ovulating ovary so there is maximal chance of the sperm being in the right place at the right time and fertilisation taking place.
Hopefully you now have more information to help you make the right decisions for your circumstances but if you would like further information on the packages available and prices then please contact us or visit Equine AIAI, part of the B&W Equine Group at www.equineai.co.uk
Chilled semen – £275 + VAT + livery fees for 1st cycle
Frozen semen – £330 + VAT + livery fees for 1st cycle
Natural/ Fresh A - £380 + VAT at stud (for barren or maiden mares over 14yo and mare with foals at foot that are 18yrs or older)
Natural/ Fresh B – £310 + VAT for all other mares at stud.
The natural package fees are for up to 3 cycles but do not include sedation if it is required.