There are a number of misconceptions about frozen semen that are pervasive in the horse breeding community and one of them relates to the relative costs of frozen vs. cooled semen. We have heard horror stories of mare owners spending thousands of dollars purchasing and then trying to get mares in foal with frozen semen only to end the season with an open mare. Then there are also stories of stallion owners investing large sums of money freezing semen that is of poor quality or doesn’t result in pregnancies. Many of these nightmares are the result of lack of quality control on the semen that is put on the commercial market and/or proficiency of the lab or technician that is freezing the semen. Poor quality semen, whether fresh, cooled or frozen will result in wasted money, empty mares and unhappy breeders. This article will present objective information on the true costs of using frozen semen so that stallion and mare owners can make informed decisions.
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Not All Frozen Semen is Created Equally
Following up on our Blog article of last month Should the US Adopt Stricter Controls on Cooled and Frozen Semen Production Facilities, we thought it might be interesting to present some data to demonstrate the variability in the quality of frozen semen being imported into the US. For the purposes of this blog article we combined the data from client samples submitted for post-thaw analysis in the last 1-3 yrs. A post-thaw analysis is one of the services we offer to our clients importing frozen semen; we evaluate post-thaw motility by computer assisted sperm analysis (CASA), sperm concentration using the Nucleocounter and we perform a bacterial culture of the semen to check for mare pathogens.
Should the US Adopt Stricter Controls on Cooled and Frozen Semen Production Facilities?
In the United States there are very few regulations concerning the collection, processing, distribution and insemination of stallion semen. Any owner who can manage to extract semen from his or her stallion can without any prior training, experience, certification or license, sell semen from that stallion without restriction of any kind. There are only a few individual states that require certain testing for diseases potentially transmitted in semen but in most cases there is no requirement for such screening within the breeding population in the U.S. The USDA has regulations concerning the importation of semen and breeding animals into the U.S. from other countries but there is no USDA oversight to regulate the horse breeding industry within the borders of the country. This is also true in many other countries as well.
Frozen Semen - Sell by the Dose or as a Breeding?
For some breeds of horses, the most popular choice for marketing frozen semen is to sell by the dose. The mare owner pays in advance for each dose of semen and typically there is no live foal guarantee.This is often the case for imported frozen semen from Warmblood sport horse stallions standing in Europe. However, other breeds use their frozen semen as part of a breeding contract with a life foal guarantee. Much of the Standardbred and Quarter Horse semen we export to Europe and Australia is sold in this manner. At Select Breeders we feel the risk associated with breeding horses, by any means, should be shared by both the stallion and mare owner. Therefore our recommendation has always been to sell frozen semen with a guaranteed contract. We review the pros and cons of both options below and welcome your comments and discussion.
The Hidden Value of Frozen Semen
You know the value of your stallion…X amount of dollars, your broodmares…X amount of dollars, and your stallion’s offspring…X amount of dollars. But if asked the value of your stallion’s frozen semen you may answer “I don’t know” or “Priceless.” Why do you need to know the value of your stallion’s frozen semen? Unfortunately, stallions pass away, partnerships dissolve due to sales or divorce, bankruptcies are filed, semen is exported, etc. and in these cases you need to be prepared to handle your frozen semen as an asset. The value of frozen semen can be determined either by the cost of production or the number of breedings that potentially could be sold.
Three Ways Stallion Owners Can Prevent Unapproved Use of Frozen Semen
As breeding season is coming to a close, many of you may be wondering what you should do about unused doses of frozen semen that remain in the possession of your mare owners and what you should do with returned semen. Stallion owners often express concern that if frozen semen is sold as part of a breeding contract, unused doses of semen remaining after the original mare becomes pregnant may be sold to a 3rd party or used to inseminate another mare without payment of any additional stud fees. But, if frozen semen is returned, how can you know if the semen quality has been compromised and what should you do with it? Here we offer some advice on how to minimize the amount of unused frozen semen that is outstanding at the end of the breeding season and how to handle the fate of this frozen semen in your breeding contracts and if it gets returned.
Questions Mare Owners Should Ask Before Breeding With Frozen Semen
Frozen semen offers many advantages to mare owners but it is important to understand that not all frozen semen is the same. You can achieve excellent results with frozen semen IF the semen is of good quality, is provided in adequate numbers and has been processed, stored and shipped properly. All too often mare owners and veterinarians have been disappointed with the results they obtained with frozen semen that may not have been processed properly or was distributed without adhering to strict standards for quality control. The best way for a mare owner to ensure success is to breed to a stallion whose owner or agent is willing to stand behind the product and offer a pregnancy guarantee, just like they would with cooled semen. If that is not the case then make sure that the semen was collected and frozen by a reputable, professional laboratory and that you can obtain objective information about the semen quality. Here are some important questions to ask the stallion owner or semen agent before you sign a contract.