Artificial Insemination (AI) is todays benchmark and breeding standards for many types of horses.
Here are some tips, to help make your next insemination as successful as possible.
1. Choose the right mare
Regardless of her age, any mare should be examined for reproductive soundess and suitability before breeding. It is important to check the condition and quality of a mares uterus and cervix at all ages. When a broomare is older, it may also be advisable to perform an endometrial biopsy to help determine any changes or alterations which may affect pregnancy. A maiden mare – who has never foaled – is a particular risk group once they are of a more advanced age, and should been screened to confirm that the uterus lining has not deteriorated and that the cervix is still able to dilate correctly and effectively.
Knowing in advance, of any risks to breeding your particular chosen mare, will help you make an informed and realistic choice on which stallion to select.
2. Choose the right stallion
Not only do you want a stallion who looks the part, but it is imperative that you find a stallion with strong semen quality. It is important that a selected stallion’s qualities will help enhance those of your chosen mare. Be sure to look at the stallions current progeny. Check thier sucess rates, the confirmation and temperament of the stallion and its youngstock, and also, the quality of their semen. Also, check the studs terms and conditions. Some studs offer a live foal guarentee, others, solely offer semen doses, with no guarentees.
3.Choose the right place to breed
The right place for breeding your mare, can be a number of palces. Your own yard may be ideal, especially if you have a young, fertile mare, who stresses when taken away from her regular company. However, in most cases, the best place for AI breeding is at a high quality breeding facility. Breeding clinics often provide more attentive care and knowledge of the process as well as better results and lower costs. Which ever route you choose to take, it is essential that you find a veterinary technician who is qualified and ideally specialises in equine AI and reproduction.
4. Prepare your horse for the breeding season
All horses who are aimed at and being prepared for breeding, should, most importantly be healthy and in good condition.
Make sure your mare is up to date on vaccinations, wormed and has routine maintainance of both teeth and hooves. An ideal broodmare’s body weight and condition should be between the desired Henneke body scores of 5 (moderate) and 7 (fleshy).
Uterine cultures can be useful in detecting the presence of any bacteria in the mares reproductive tract, prior to making any breeding attempts.
5. Choose the right type of semen
Semen is available in three forms (fresh, chilled or frozen), each of which has its own pros and cons and should be taken into account when choosing what is most suitable for your mare.
Fresh semen: This is considered to be the most fertile. It is longer lasting once inseminated and mares require fewer veterinary checks prior to conception. However, it cannot be transported and requires usage almost immediately, meaning both the mare and stallion need to be at the same location.
Chilled semen: Can be transported inexpensively, overnight by couriers or postal services. It usually retains good viability for 24-30hours plus an additional 24-48 hours once inseminated. Ordering, transport and delivery must be well managed to work within these time constraints.
Frozen semen: The longer lasting storage style, means that frozen semen can be shipped worldwide, and stored on hand, ready for use at the optimum time fory our mare. It can be preserved for years when stored in liquid nitrogen storage units, which means is can be ready and on hand whenever your mare ovulates. Special transportation is required, usually by courier.
6. Choose the appropriate ultrasound/insemination program
Ultrasound the mare every day or every other day if fresh or chilled semen are being used. When the ovarian follicle reaches a size of 35mm and the mare is showing firm signs of being in season, she should be inseminated every 48 hours until she has ovulated. Ovulation in mares can be induced by a veterinarian in order to help reduce the number of inseminations.
When using frozen semen, inseminate the mare after (within 6 hours) ovulation. This too helps reduce the number of required inseminations, but also means that the frequency of ultrasounds is increased to once, every six hours, day and night.
A less labour intensive alternative is to give the mare hCG to induce ovulation and then inseminate 24-40 hours later.
7. Get the timing right.
The timing of ultrasounds, induction of ovulation, shipping of semen and insemination are critical.
Changes to a mares uterus offer key signals during her heat cycle. A mare’s uterus shows characteristics of edema (fluid swelling) due to endocrine changes relating to estrus. This can be easily detected by a veterinarian through examining the reproductive tract via ultrasound.
Do not give an hCG shot unless the mare is showing clear signs of being in season, in addition to a large visible follicle.
If using chilled semen, you should order your supplies at the same time as you give the hCG injection. Semen should arrive within 24 hours and insemination should occur immediately. The mare will most likely ovulate about 12 hours after. Many breeders will wait until the semen is in hand, before giving hCG and inseminating, as good pregnancy rates can still be achieved with this method.
Frozen semen may take longer to arrive, so estrus or ovulation should never be induced, until the semen order is waiting in the tank.
8. Fight bacteria
With correct management, sexually transmitted diseases and bacteria such as Streptococci will have been controlled prior to breeding season. There is, however, always some kind of bacterium present during breeding. Effects of the bacteria are usually minimal as long as the mare is healthy.
For sperm, bacteria can be deadly. Keeping semen cool will help stop the negative effect of bacteria. When semen is kept at 5degrees (celcius), the bacteria appears to be neutralised. Semen extenders always use antibiotics to help prevent an excessive bacterial growth, during shipment and storage.
Semen which is infected with bacteria becomes easy to recognise under microscope, and is another reason semen should always undergo a qaulity check.
9. Stick to the program
The most common mistake made during the AI procedure is not being vigilant about following a mare’s status, after insemnation. Post service treament is equally as important. A mare should be checked for pregnancy within the 14-16day window, following insemination. During this time frame, it is possible to catch the next ovulation if necessary.
10. Keep stress to a minimum.
Studies have shown that normal stress relating to the breeding process (including transportation, separation, examination and insemination procedures) is not significant enough to have a negative affect on fertility. However, each horse is different, and keeping them as relaxed and comfortable as possible is generally a good rule to adhere to while breeding.
Horses who are working and in competition, tend to be less fertile. Fertility levels will vary from one horse to another, so owners are encouraged to be mindful and monitor fertility rates, and modify the program if necessary.