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Artificial Insemination and Fresh Cooled Semen
Artificial Insemination and Fresh Cooled Semen

The advantages of using Fresh Cooled Semen, over natural breeding . . .

We are enjoying the inquires of so many mare owners who are considering the use of artificial insemination (AI) with fresh cooled semen.  Just as many are shopping for stallions, they are also considering the convenience of having semen shipped here for breeding their mares. In this column we would like to discuss the  advantages, disadvantages, and procedure for AI-ing with fresh cooled semen.     

Of course we want to discuss the advantages of AI-ing first.  Here we will discuss using fresh cooled semen.   In a later article we will discuss using AI with frozen semen as well as AI in general.

It is important to have the mare in good condition reproductively for any breeding method, and probably even more so when using AI with shipped semen.  The semen is 24 hours old when it arrives and it may be another 24 hours before it is used. While many stallions produce semen that stays fertile this long, storage does not improve quality.  So just as you would with any mare to be bred by AI or natural service, she should be examined and cultured  first.

The advantages of receiving fresh cooled semen are many:
You can select a stallion from anywhere in the United States.  Once we call in a request, the semen will be in our office by 10:00 the next morning, whether it be from northern Missouri or from California.
The mare and foal stay close to home and are not exposed to as much travel or mixing with other horses as they would if shipped to a stud farm.  The mare and foal will be away from home for three or four days instead of the three or more weeks usually required by the farm breeding contract to allow time for confirmation of pregnancy by ultrasound.  [This allows you more time to spoil the foal and to spend time haltering, leading, etc.]
Staying home and AI-ing should provide some cost savings over trailoring the mare to a stud farm, paying mare care for three or more weeks, and trailoring home.  This cost is usually considerably more than the insignificant veterinary expenses involved monitoring the ovaries to determine the best time to order semen.
Only breeding to your own stallion or one next door would there be any cost savings.  Once you start hauling the mare, those hauling costs will exceed those associated with breeding the mare using fresh cooled semen.

Once you have selected a stallion, contact his farm to see if semen is available for shipping.  They will send you a contract for review.  It will list any costs they expect you to pay in addition to the stud fee.  These may be listed as chute fees, collection fees, veterinary fees, etc.  However they are listed, that farm usually charges the same fee to customers who bring their mare directly to the farm.  Some farms actually charge less when shipping semen because they do not  handle the mares and colts.

The contract will also discuss the number of semen shipments included in the breeding fee.  It will discuss shipment costs and possibly a deposit for the shipping container.  The contract will usually outline the collection schedule, and in so doing, it makes the scheduling the mare's ovulation the responsibility of the receiving veterinarian.

Once you have decided to breed your mare with shipped semen, contact us to confirm your plans and provide us with the following information:
name of the stallion,
name of contact person at the stud farm, and
the phone number of the contact person.
We will take it from there.

Our procedure is to use prostaglandin to schedule the mare's heat cycle.  The ability to "schedule" her heat cycle provides us with this advantage: we can bring the mare into heat during the middle of the week:
When shipping semen, weekend shipments are more expensive.
In addition, most stallions are collected three days per week but rarely on the weekend.
Even if the stallion is being collected every other day, Saturday and Sunday are "either/or" days, either days of collection OR days of shipment.
~Sunday shipment is not available, and
~Saturday shipment is much more expensive.

Three days after the prostaglandin is given, the mare is admitted to the clinic.  She is examined to determine the status of her ovaries and the progress of the follicle that will bring her into heat.  The stud farm will be notified of the most likely day we will need semen shipped.

Once the ovaries are noticeably enlarged, we ultrasound the uterus to confirm the heat.  The uterus lining is examined for edema (swelling), the cervix for softening, and the follicle wall for thinning.

By 8 AM on the day all the signs start pointing to an ovulation, we contact the stud farm requesting semen.  That evening, after confirming semen will be sent, we give the mare an injection to guarantee ovulation will take place within the next forty eight hours.

By 10:00 AM the next day, the semen will be sitting on our doorstep.  The mare is inseminated promptly.  The semen will be examined under the microscope to confirm the accompanying paper work.

The next day, the mare is examined to confirm ovulation has occurred.  If there is fluid present within the uterus (which is not uncommon in the older mare or the mare with a low biopsy score), the uterus will be lavaged to remove the irritating semen and uterine fluids.  If the mare's vulva is tilted or disfigured, the lips will be sutured to reduce the chance of contamination to the vagina and cervix.

Fourteen days after ovulation the mare can be examined by ultrasound for pregnancy.  If the mare is in residence, we will be calling her owner promptly with congratulations and the promise of champagne.

While the use of fresh cooled semen may not improve the conception rate of a mare over the use of AI or natural service, it provides the opportunity to use stallions some distance away without the time and expense involved in transporting the mare and baby.

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