So, you want to breed a champion horse?
Richard McKenzie outlines the factors you will need to consider when exploring artificial insemination.
Finding the right stallion
First of all, read the contract thoroughly! They all differ and offer a number of terms and conditions that you will need to familiarise yourself with. For example, do they offer a Live Foal Guarantee? What is the certification? When is semen available? What is the service fee and payment options?
Fertility feedback is important and the number of service times counts. A stallion that gets a mare pregnant after 20 inseminations can be told in a way which sounds like a 100% strike rate but, that involves 19 collections, 19 couriers, and 19 appointments with the vet on top of your service fee! Phoning the stud to get additional details and feedback on the stallion can be helpful. When you gather additional details, you may prefer to go with the stallion that gets 80% of mares pregnant within 3 services, rather than the stallion who was advertised to have a 100% success rate.
Do you want to purchase semen fresh, chilled, or frozen? Fresh is usually cheaper and more successful but limits you to stallions within New Zealand and parts of Australia. Frozen requires an exact timing, additional scanning and is less successful statistically which can cost you more in time and money but it gives you an option to access international bloodlines.
Find a mare
In most cases you will already have a mare. Make sure you consider age, breeding history, ease of scanning size and their temperament. Factor in the risks and additional costs. Using an older mare, or a mare that needs to be sedated for safety reasons every time she is in the crush will need to be considered in your budget.
Find a vet and facilities
You will need to discuss the logistics of artificial insemination programme with your preferred vet. There are structured programmes in place to help with the timing, and deciding on facilities which are fit for purpose.
To give you an idea of what is involved
- Find out when your mare is in season (In Hawke’s Bay mares usually cycle best from early October). If you can’t tell when your mare is in season a vet can use hormonal drugs to help bring them on.
- Book a pre breeding scan. Your vet will complete a physical examination, rectal ultrasound scan, and assess the mares uterus and ovaries to determine if the mare is f in breeding condition.
- If this examination and her pre breeding scan doesn’t pick up any abnormalities that need treatment or show this mare may not be suitable (cysts, infection, fluid etc) your vet will book repeat scans every day or two until she reaches a point in her cycle with good uterine oedema and suitably sized follicle (eggs).
- When the mare reaches this criteria, a drug will be administered to help time her ovulation and fresh/chilled semen will be ordered (frozen semen would already be stored in your bank ready for the optimal time for insemination).
*If you have chosen to use frozen semen, you have a very narrow window for insemination (which can be midnight or other ungodly hours). Your vet will make a plan with you and ensure you factor facilities, extra mileage and costs that this may entail in to your equation.
Interested in A.I this season?
VS Equine, an equine focused division of Vet Services Hawke’s Bay, offer limited spaces for artificial insemination (fresh or frozen) through a private agistment and labour facility.
If you are interested in breeding this season or want to learn more about artificial insemination please contact Richard McKenzie at our Hastings Clinic. (06) 876 7001.