The SBS network of affiliates is the acknowledged leader in the field of cryopreservation of equine semen. Each year we freeze thousands of ejaculates equating to tens of thousands of doses. In fact, this year the SBS Network will surpass the 50,000 ejaculate milestone since the company’s founding in 1987. When SBS was founded the company leadership made a commitment to quality of the finished product above all else. We wanted to put technology to use to help grow the equine frozen semen AI industry in the most responsible manner possible. It was clear early on that one of the major factors limiting the application of frozen semen in the horse industry was inconsistent quality of the product being put on the market. Breeders and veterinarians experienced frustration with attempts to use expensive semen that in many cases was of very poor quality. We knew that in order for breeders to realize the full potential of frozen semen technology they would have to be convinced that by applying strict standards for quality, frozen semen could be produced to achieve results similar to cooled semen. We also knew that these results would have to be produced in an efficient and economical way. Quality became the cornerstone upon which we would build our business.
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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.
What Is Progressive Motility?
The most commonly used measure of semen quality is sperm motility, specifically “progressive motility”. But what exactly does that mean and how is it determined? The minimum post-thaw “progressive motility” generally recommended for commercial distribution of frozen semen is 30% to 35%. This article will address some of the factors that can affect the assessment of sperm motility as well as the various problems associated with techniques used for determining “progressive motility”.
What Exactly is a Dose of Frozen Semen?
Is a dose a breeding? Is a straw a dose? How many straws in a dose? How many sperm in a dose? These are often questions we hear from our clients when purchasing or using frozen semen. There is so much variability in the format of doses sold throughout the world that it can be confusing at times. To ensure you have the best opportunity of success when breeding your mare it is important to understand all the elements that determine an adequate dose of frozen semen. Here we review frequently asked questions that relate to what constitutes a dose of frozen semen.
Understanding Your Frozen Semen Shipment Transaction Report
Every shipment that we send from Select Breeders Services includes an envelope of materials, zip tied to the top of the frozen semen shipper, that provides information about the semen we are sending to you. Included in the envelope are the following items:
- Transaction Report
- Safety Notice for Handling Frozen Semen
- Thawing and Handling Instructions
- Info sheet on Management of Mares with Frozen Semen
- Return FedEx airbill and address label
- Info notice regarding tank rental and return
- Additional materials may include notices prepared by the stallion owner that they have requested us to include with the shipment, e.g. breeding and insemination certificates.
It Only Takes One...... Right?
How many sperm does it take to get a mare pregnant?
1 billion?...500 million?... One? Actually, any one of those answers could be correct under certain conditions. The only way to really answer that question is... "it depends". Fertilization is a complex process requiring that both the sperm and egg possess a myriad of functional attributes expressed at the right time and in the right place. A motile sperm is not necessarily a fertile sperm. So, how many sperm must be deposited in the mare for "acceptable" fertility? It would seem that this would be the logical basis for determining sperm numbers in an insemination dose for commercially distributed semen. To achieve the goals of both the mare and stallion owner it is necessary for each dose of semen to contain sufficient numbers of functionally competent sperm to maximize the probability of conception. The relationship between sperm number and fertility is expressed as a typical dose response curve (see figure1). However, the slope of the curve and the maximum level of fertility are different for individual stallions.