Getting you ready
There are many options today for breeding horses and it can be a very exciting process but at the same time frustrating and disappointing for the uninitiated or ill prepared. It is difficult to advise concisely of all the considerations you need the bear in mind when planning the breeding of your mare or offering your stallion for breeding however we have tried for you below.
Choose the right mare
Regardless of her age, a mare should be examined for reproductive soundness before breeding. The aim of this examination is to determine if there are any underlying issues present that may need treatment or management to ensure the success of breeding the mare and carrying a foal to full term. Typically, the external and internal genitalia of the mare are examined physically, with a speculum and with an ultrasound. Depending upon the stage of the mare’s reproductive cycle, some problems like fluid or air accumulation in the uterus for example may or may not be detected. Other tests, if indicated, could include uterine cytology, culture or biopsy.
Maiden mares greater than thirteen years old are a particular risk group for successful breeding. The lining of their uterus, if they haven’t used it, does deteriorate, and their cervix might not dilate as much as that of a younger mare during oestrous. While these mares can still be successfully bred, they often require more intensive management to ensure a outcome.
Choose the right stallion
When it comes to getting the mare pregnant, you also need a stallion with good quality semen. It doesn’t matter how fertile the mare is, if the semen is of poor quality, it probably won’t work. Ask the stallion owner about the fertility and if choosing frozen semen discuss the conception rate for the batch of frozen semen that you will be provided. Another consideration when choosing the stallion is what happens if the mare doesn’t get pregnant and if there is a live foal guarantee, what are the terms of this.
Prepare your horse for the breeding season
Any horse entering the breeding season should above all be healthy. Make sure your stallion or mare is up-to-date on all vaccinations and worming; have hooves been examined and trimmed, have the teeth been evaluated and floated. A rising plain of nutrition is essential to fertility and particular attention should be paid to nutrition. Handling is important as well, ensure your horse is comfortable being handled all over, is used to confined spaces and floats/trucks well. Stress will impact on fertility and time spent desensitising your horse will help to reduce this.
Prepare your paperwork
Typically, most stallion owners require documentation to be completed and a booking fee paid prior to commencing breeding. For mare owners that are breeding via chilled artificial insemination, particular attention to the requirements for notification of a collection and transport arrangements is needed. Similarly, for mare owners that are breeding via frozen semen, arrangements for the transportation of the semen needs to be made well in advance of commencing the breeding cycle. Stallion owners that are offering their stallion’s service via chilled semen should have the horse evaluated each season to ensure collection is a smooth process and quality of the chilled semen is good as this can vary from year to year; clear guidelines on notification of a collection and arrangement of transport of chilled semen should be provided to the mare owners that have chosen to breed this way.
Planning in detail prior to commencing breeding of your mare or offering your stallion for breeding is essential for success. Some of the considerations have been outlined above however there are often many others and we are happy to discuss, anytime, so please don’t hesitate to call.
Walk-on, walk-off service
For many mare owners that are reluctant or unable to leave their mare at the stud the stallion is standing at, we can set your mare up to be in season prior to transport to the stud for live cover. Once in season, arrangements are made for the mare to be covered by the stallion and a suitable ovulation drug is administered so that the mare can be covered the once and returned home in the same trip.
Problem breeder mare
For mares that have a history of breeding issues, we offer a fixed price service that covers a range of treatments to optimise the mare’s chance of getting in foal. This service for mare owners is suitable if the stallion they have chosen for their mare is in close proximity to Killarney Veterinary Surgery and the stallion owner is able to bring the stallion to the mare when required, typically once per cycle.
Chilled artificial insemination
Chilled semen is viable for approximately 48 hours post collection, which makes it ideal for stallions in most parts of Australia. Success rates with chilled semen are generally much higher than with frozen semen. First cycle success is typically 50-70%. We do everything we can to maximise the conception rate, but you need to be aware that not every cycle will result in a pregnancy. The quality of the chilled semen is related to the management of the stallion, handling and shipping, all of which we cannot influence. When you choose your chilled AI sire, you should establish the success rate and quality of the chilled semen being supplied and costs associated with collection and shipping. In many cases you will need to arrange the shipping and you should also establish how much notice for a collection is required.
Frozen artificial insemination
Semen frozen in liquid nitrogen has an indefinite lifespan. This means that semen can be shipped to Australia from stallions internationally. It also allows semen from deceased stallions to be available. The disadvantages of frozen semen are that the success rates are much less than those using chilled artificial insemination or live cover. This is because the freezing and thawing process is damaging to the sperm. Once thawed, frozen semen usually has a lower motility, and the sperm do not live for long (usually less than 6 hours). Therefore, it is extremely important that insemination is timed very close to ovulation which requires round the clock scanning and a very tolerant mare. First cycle insemination success is typically 30-40%. We do everything we can to maximise the conception rate, but you need to be aware that not every cycle will result in a pregnancy. When choosing a sire, you should establish the success rate of the frozen semen being supplied and the number of doses that will be shipped. You should also establish the cost of freight for the semen to be shipped.