Long Distance Daddies
How easy is using Shipped Semen for Artificial Insemination?
In today’s world of increased technology , transportation, communication via the internet, we have literally have all the choice in the world when selecting breeding stock. We are only limited by our knowledge and means to make it happen.
It makes good “cents”
Vast knowledge is readily available on the internet and the cost of doing AI is variable depending on the kind of resources of equine reproductive specialist you have available to you locally. It literally pays, to arm yourself with knowledge or hire the most knowledgeable people you can find. Experience in proper semen handling is the key factor in successful artificial insemination (AI), regardless of the cost. Of course improper handling will increase the cost in failed attempts.
AI versus live cover success rates are pretty equal statistically speaking when fresh cooled semen is used and proper procedures are followed. The benefits of AI are many for both the mare and stallion owner. Also with embryo transfer becoming more commonplace, even mares can have multiple foals per year without ever having to give birth. Never before has the breeder had so many options.
Still for many people, the thought of doing a simple long distance breeding seems daunting and perhaps financially risky. From the mare owner’s point of view, some basic questions arise about what is involved, but the stallion owner, who wants to learn to collect and ship semen, requires a great deal more knowledge to be successful. The collection process itself need not be much more complicated than hand breeding a live mare, but learning proper semen handling techniques to extend the life of the semen for shipping are critical.
This article is not intended to be an in depth knowledge base, there are far better resources for that kind of information. Some will be will listed at the end of this article. It will however, give a horseperson’s simple overview of what is involved including some of the costs involved.
Breeding your mare..
A breeding soundness exam (BSE) will be your first investment in the process and save you money in the long run. Especially if you do it even before booking a breeding to a stallion. It will tell you what your chances of a successful breeding are and also when you mare will be ready to be bred. At the very least, observing where she is in her cycle, will let you know when to bring her for live cover (if that’s your choice) and save you board money. The BSE will save you money by detecting things that could prevent pregnancy that you would have no other way of knowing. Such as cysts, infection, or other poor uterine conditions. Older maiden mares sometimes have a lack of hormones that may cause problems.
The cost of such an exam varies depending on what tests are performed and if your vet will do the exam on farm or at a clinic. A typical complete on farm exam with biopsy and ultrasound could be as much as $200 or more, but a more basic exam could be more in the lower with the farm call making up a portion of that charge. This exam is worthwhile even if the mare is to be bred live cover. If your mare has problems, it won’t matter who deposits the semen in the mare, the stallion or the vet, a pregnancy won’t occur. Unfortunately the mare has many more things that can go awry than the stallion. Even a mare that is too thin or even too fat may have difficulty conceiving.
Many vets prefer to do these exams at clinics where they have stocks to restrain the mare, but if your mare is quiet, the tests are not painful and can be done at your farm. Some mares may require a mild tranquilizer to ensure the safety of the vet and his ultrasound equipment.
Once your mare has been pronounced breeding sound, then her ovulation is pinpointed for insemination. This can be done on farm, but many vets will require the mare be brought to a clinic so that multiple ultrasounds can be done for accuracy. Sometimes there is as little as a 6 hour window for the egg to be fertilized, so there needs to be semen on hand or already in the mare when ovulation occurs. Your vet may also want to give your mare a hormone shot to better predict or manage when she ovulates.
In the stallion’s case, most problems with the quality of semen are in the handling, not with the stallion’s reproductive health. A stallion’s fertility will decline with age, but a young healthy stallion, usually has few difficulties with semen quality. Every collection should be assessed during processing prior to shipment.
Timing is critical.
The stallion owner will need to be advised when the mare come into heat and then again the day before when semen is needed in order to ensure it arrives on the proper day. Be sure to check that there are no restrictions on what days the stallion can be collected and shipped and be mindful of holidays that may interfere with airlines and couriers. Also note that very rural areas may not qualify for overnight delivery (ask because they won’t always tell you) and in that case you can have the semen held for pick a the depot to ensure your vet gets it on time. Shipping via airlines as cargo is also a possibility, but not to all locations. Shipping and collection fees are usually charged separately by stallion owners, as courier charges will vary based on distance and method. The stud fee is only charged once and many contracts include a limited live foal guarantee, where the foal must at least stand and nurse or the mare owner gets to try again to get a live foal. All such details are outlined and agreed to in a standard contract beforehand. A typical collection fee would be $250.US, but those who do their own collections can often afford to charge less as they do not have to pay a vet or trailer their stallion to be collected.
The vet charge for the AI procedure on your mare, can range from $250 (on farm) to considerably more at a clinic where boarding fees also apply. The mare is often kept at the clinic to be ultrasounded as early as 14 to 18 days to see if she conceived. If not, another shipment of semen can be requested without missing a cycle.
If you have any more specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
One of the best resouces of breeding articles and information is http://www.equine-reproduction.com/articles/index.shtml