By Sarah Eaton DVM,DACT
The development of shipped semen programs has allowed for the distribution of horse genetic material worldwide without having to ship horses around the globe.Â There are two types of shipped semen available to the mare owner: frozen and fresh chilled.Â Pregnancy rates per cycle using fresh chilled semen with fertile mares and stallions are similar to using fresh semen or live cover.Â
Frozen semen has a slightly lower fertility rate, most likely due to the smaller number of sperm in each dose of inseminate.Â However, the great advantages of frozen semen are that it can be stored indefinitely, is useful even after the sire has died, and can be shipped world-wide.
When using shipped semen the heat cycle of a mare is followed very closely, usually with ultrasound, and hormones are used to try to induce ovulation.Â Close monitoring of the mareâs heat cycle allows for artificial insemination at just the right time to maximize the chances of a successful pregnancy.Â
In addition, by using only 1-2 doses of semen, the cost of shipping, insemination, as well as the semen itself is kept to a minimum.Â In terms of horse health, the use of shipped semen can reduce the risk of injury to either the mare or the stallion since live cover is not performed.Â In addition, the risk of certain diseases such as influenza and strangles are reduced since neither horse has to travel or meet new animals.
As with any purchase, buying a 'breeding' with shipped semen should be done only after appropriate research has gone into both the mare and the stallion.Â On the mare side, success rates with shipped semen (or fresh semen) are increased when the mare is young and fertile.Â Shipped semen is often used for older or subfertile mares but this generally increases the cost as these mares must be managed more closely by the veterinarian.Â
On the stallion side, the mare owner should verify the stallionâs health status, as well as whether the semen from the stallion collects, cools, and ships well.Â At the beginning of each breeding season stallion owners should verify that their stallion has good semen quality and it is fertile after shipment.Â Â
It is very beneficial to find out the stallionâs per cycle pregnancy rate, especially when using frozen semen.Â Your veterinarian can assist you in determining what questions to ask a stallion owner before purchasing a breeding with shipped semen.
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