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.
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My Stallion is Not Settling His Mares...What Do I Do? - Part 2
My Stallion is Not Settling His Mares...What Do I Do? - Part 1
It is around this time of year that we receive calls for advice from anxious stallion owners concerned about a lower than anticipated conception rate for their stallion, in the hopes of finding some resolution and correcting any potential issues before the end of the breeding season. Time is running out to fulfill those breeding contracts and get those mares pregnant. There are so many variables that contribute to successful conception and pregnancy, from both the mare and the stallion side of things. From the stallion owners perspective they are looking to address the stallion’s semen quality, breeding management and reproductive status. But where to start? This article will give stallion owners an overview and provide a systematic guide to troubleshooting a resolution if possible. 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.
Declining Fertility in the Aged Stallion
Age-related testicular degeneration is a common problem in older stallions. This type of testicular degeneration is different than the degeneration that can be seen after, for example, an injury to the testes in a younger stallion. Following testicular trauma, many stallions are able to fully recover. However, age-related testicular degeneration results in progressive deterioration of the testes and an associated progressive decline in testicular function. Over time, affected stallions become progressively more subfertile and eventually may become sterile in association with decreases in semen quality, sperm numbers and testicular size. There is no proven treatment for age related testicular degeneration, although many therapies have been tried. In this article, Dr. Regina Turner of the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the causes of age-related testicular degeneration, current research and how one can manage the breeding career of an aged stallion until a treatment or cure is found.
Ovum Pickup in the Mare
Breeding horses has come a long ways in the last 50 years. Veterinarians have been able to overcome many of the obstacles presented when breeding horses with advancements in artificial insemination and embryo transfer. However, there are still times when infertility of either the mare, stallion or both prevent getting foals on the ground. The most recent advances in assisted reproductive technologies, Ovum Pickup and Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), have allowed us at Weatherford Equine Breeding Center (WEBC) to take the next step in overcoming these obstacles with some promising results.
Quality Control is at the Core of the SBS Difference
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.
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.
Heat Stress and Equine Reproduction
During those dog days of late summer and the end of the breeding season, most of us who work in equine reproduction are ready for a break. You are left with those difficult mares that didn’t settle earlier in the season and stallions that may be growing tired of breeding. Mares may not cycle as predictably or conceive as readily and stallions may be tougher to collect or exhibit a decrease in semen quality. One of the factors that can contribute to these problems is heat stress. As ambient temperatures rise, stallions and mares may experience disruptions to normal reproductive function as a result. This article will briefly describe some of the effects of heat stress on mare and stallion reproductive function.
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.
Sperm Accumulation in the Stallion
Have you ever wondered what happens to all those sperm the stallion produces every day (5 billion or more)? If he is not bred or collected then where do the sperm go? We know that sperm are produced in the testicle and move from the testicle into the efferent ducts and then into the head of the epididymis. It takes about 7-10 days for sperm to travel from the head of the epididymis to the cauda epididymis (tail; figure middle right). This time frame is not altered by how often the stallion ejaculates. The old wives tale that you can get immature sperm if the stallion is bred too often is just not true. In this article, Dr. Ed Squires and Dr. Pat McCue review the causes, diagnosis and treatment for stallions which accumulate sperm.
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.