Shopping for Stallions
some of the advantages of using Artificial Insemination over Natural Breeding
One of the nice things about winter (and believe me, I am looking hard to find them) is the time it gives us to look for stallions. Just as gardeners look forward to receiving their seed catalogues, mare owners look forward to looking at the pictures and reading the "stats" of possible suitors for their mares. Of course the stallion owners are aware of this opportunity to present their stallions for review. The breed journals are full of advertisements and very nice pictures. We are also receiving posters for new stallions as well as updated ones for local horses for our 'stallion wall.' We enjoy providing this free service for our clients so we can see their stallions dressed up. The display also gives waiting clients something interesting to do on those occasions I run behind seeing patients!
There are several ways we can breed mares to the stallion of our choice. These used to be easily divided into natural service and artificial insemination (AI) for all the breeds excluding the Thoroughbreds. (The Jockey Club - the registry for Thoroughbreds - does not allow artificial insemination). Now AI is carried out using fresh semen, fresh cooled semen, and frozen semen. Each one requires a little different management of the mare and will be the topic of future articles.
Natural service is when the mare in heat is presented to the stallion for breeding. The stallion, after the typically loud and boisterous male behavior, will mount and penetrate the receptive mare. After ejaculation he slowly withdraws and dismounts. The stallion is returned to his paddock or stall for a brief nap.
The mare is placed in a paddock to be teased two days later for signs of heat. If she is still in heat, the mare will be serviced again at that time. This process is repeated every other day until heat signs are diminishing or absent. Of course the other mares present must also be checked for heat signs and breeding scheduled if necessary.
Some stallion owners choose the efficiency and safety of AI as the way to breed mares. The stallion is collected using an artificial vagina while he is mounting a phantom mare. The stallion is collected every other day and the mares nearing ovulation are bred at that time. The stallion returns to his paddock for two restful days without the anxiety and frustration of multiple teasing and breeding! The owner returns to a normal life without worrying about overworking or injuring his stallion.
If it sounds like we are in favor of the use of AI, you are pretty perceptive. It is an accepted fact that the conception rate with mares bred AI will be higher than those bred with natural service. This is not as much a reflection on the stallion as the attention the mare receives. The mare will be cultured to be sure she is free of infection. She will be and with fewer services, which becomes very important for the older the mare.
In the Quarter Horse breed (the largest in the US), over 69% of mares are bred AI. The conception rate for QH mares was compared to that of the TB mares, who are all bred with natural service. The TB mare pregnancy rate would be higher than the general horse population due to the economical pressure put on them. After one service, the pregnancy rate for QH mares was 51% compared to 43% for the TB mares. After repeat breeding, the difference was 84% for QH mares vs. 75% for TB mares.
A similar study of live foals by the Arabian Horse Registry found a 5% difference in favor of AI for all breedings and 10.6% difference in favor of AI in problem mares.
And if you needed additional information, a study on one Standardbred farm found the pregnancy rate to be 83% with AI compared to 74.5% for natural service. In problem mares the difference was even greater with 44.8% for AI vs. 31% for natural service. By now your eyes are probably crossing, but we wanted to be sure our clients are aware of AI and are comfortable with it. Once we accept it as a breeding option, we can begin to realize the opportunity it provides for both the mare owner and the stallion owner.
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