To understand why seminal plasma is beneficial in some situations and potentially harmful in others we must first review what it is, where it comes from and what we think are its roles in reproduction. The term seminal plasma refers to the fluid portion of ejaculated semen in which the spermatozoa are suspended. This fluid consists of secretions from the accessory sex glands in the stallion’s reproductive tract. These include the ampullae, the vesicular glands (seminal vesicles), the prostate gland and the bulbourethral glands (figure 1).
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Analysis of Frozen-Thawed Equine Semen
Once equine semen is frozen it is recommended that a post-thaw analysis be performed in order to ascertain the semen quality. There is variability in how well sperm from different stallions respond to the cellular stress of freezing and thawing. It is important to determine how well the sperm from a particular stallion withstood the stress of cryopreservation in order to make informed decisions regarding the management of their frozen semen inventory and breedings. Also, when we freeze a stallion for the first time we do a test freeze comparing several different protocols. We then use the post-thaw motility to select the freezing protocol for subsequent collections which gives the best post-thaw result. There are industry recommended minimums for commercial distribution of equine frozen semen and therefore it is pertinent to know if your stallion’s frozen semen would qualify. Consequently, the analysis of frozen-thawed semen is a valuable tool for the semen freezing lab, but also for the veterinarian receiving the semen. Your vet may base the breeding management of your mare upon the post-thaw quality of the semen. Also, many vets take a look at the motility of the frozen semen at the time of insemination, for future reference if there are concerns should the mare not check in foal.
Influence of Mare Status When Breeding with Frozen Semen
Whether a mare is maiden, recently foaled, or barren can influence her ability to conceive when breeding her with frozen semen. The first pregnancy obtained by using frozen-thawed semen in the equine species dates back to 1957 and was obtained using epididymal semen. However, for many years this reproductive technology has achieved limited progress in the horse compared with other species such as cattle. This was mainly because for a very long period of time only a few horse registries allowed the use of frozen-thawed semen. Hence, economic interests and resources allocated to research have always been minimal and as a result obstructing advances in this area.
My Stallion is Not Settling His Mares...What Do I Do? - Part 2
How a stallion owner/manager responds to and handles mare owner concerns regarding semen quality or fertility can make or break a relationship or reputation. This article aims to give stallion owners an overview of the factors involved and provide a systematic guide to troubleshooting a resolution if possible. In Part 1 of this article, published in last month’s newsletter, we discussed the stallion’s breeding history, the importance of a breeding soundness exam (BSE), and stallion management practices as well as semen quality and evaluation. This month in Part 2, we will review common problems identified after the semen evaluation, the relevance of the mare book and their reproductive status and discuss the topic as it relates to those stallions breeding with frozen semen.
Effect of Number and Timing of Equine Frozen Semen Inseminations on Fertility
Further expansion in the use of frozen semen is dependent upon developing simplified strategies for insemination. SBS has developed a timed insemination protocol where mares are only examined once per day during estrus and inseminated at 24 and 40 hr after hCG or 30 and 40 hr after GnRH. This approach allows frozen semen mares to be managed similar to those bred with cooled shipped semen. A couple of arguments against this approach with frozen semen is that it takes too much semen when mares are bred twice in one cycle and that if the mare is inseminated more than once per cycle the fertility will be lowered because of post-breeding induced endometritis.
Test Breeding Mares as an Aid to Marketing Equine Frozen Semen
Stallion owners and managers can encounter reluctance from mare owners to use frozen semen. This may be due, in part, to commonly spread misinformation regarding the fertility of frozen semen and the misconception that frozen semen is difficult to use. This hesitancy seems especially true if the frozen semen of a particular stallion has yet to be used in order to establish evidence of fertility. If one can offer specific credible evidence of the fertility of frozen semen from a given stallion it can go a long way towards promoting the process and breedings to your stallion. For more information please read “Frozen Semen Myths and Misconceptions” as well as our blog article regarding “The Pros and Cons of Equine Frozen Semen”. In this article, Dr. Brian Carroll of Oklahoma City Equine Hospital, discusses why a frozen semen fertility trial should be performed, how to go about performing the fertility trial and provides an example of a frozen semen fertility trial he performed.
Why Freeze Stallion Semen?
All too often we hear tragic stories about the sudden death of a stallion whether it be due to an illness or an accident no one anticipated. He may have been a mature stallion who was already proving himself as a sire or a young stallion but now the world will never know his genetic capabilities. These conversations usually end with the stallion owner saying, “I wish I had frozen semen from him.” Or a mare owner saying, “I wish they had frozen semen on him because he would have been a wonderful cross with my mare.” It doesn’t have to be this way.
Splitting Doses of Frozen Semen
“I just purchased one very expensive dose of frozen semen from this incredible stallion. Is it OK to split the dose and breed two mares to try and get two foals?” or “The stallion owner only provides one dose per heat cycle and my vet would like to use a timed insemination protocol. Is it OK to split the dose and inseminate twice on the heat cycle?” At SBS we have heard these questions or some variation of them many times over the years. The answers are not simple ones. This blog article will follow up on two previous blogs that are also important in understanding the issue. See the recent blogs What Exactly is a Dose of Frozen Semen? and What is Progressive Motility?
Harvesting and Freezing Equine Epididymal Sperm
The sudden death of a stallion is a devastating event, not just emotionally, but potentially financially as well. In addition to any competitive goals the stallion was working towards, his untimely death may mean the loss of future breedings, particularly if a stock of frozen semen was not banked up whilst he was alive. In this situation it may be possible to harvest and freeze epididymal sperm by castrating the stallion immediately after death or euthanasia. Alternatively, collection and freezing of epididymal sperm may be an elective procedure performed at the time of castration. This offers an advantage to young stallions, i.e. some semen can be frozen without taking time out from a busy training schedule, or without exposing a young stallion to the breeding environment. For the mature stallion it represents an additional opportunity to collect semen for freezing. Here we review the process of epididymal sperm harvesting for freezing, and its subsequent application for breeding purposes.
The Pros and Cons of Equine Frozen Semen
The advantages and disadvantages of utilizing equine frozen semen are debated by stallion and mare owners alike. Will I continue to show my stallion or retire him to the breeding shed? Is there an international market for my stallion? What if my stallion is injured in an accident or suddenly dies? Is my mare a suitable candidate for breeding with frozen semen? Is it true conception rates with frozen semen are lower than those when using cooled semen? These are just a few questions to ask when considering whether to utilize equine frozen semen.