'What Is This ?
The use of
Artificial Insemination has long been acknowledged as being
acceptable in the cattle and sheep breeding industries, but it is
only recently that horse breeders have begun to realise its
In the European horse
breeding industry experiments into the collection and use of semen
for AI were carried out as far back as 1890. Much of the initial
research took place in France, Germany and Denmark and it is
interesting that these countries, together with Holland, are today
at the forefront of equine AI. Originally AI was viewed as a way of
overcoming sterility but in 1902 at the Northern Livestock
Conference in Copenhagen it was brought to delegates attention that
the use of AI had potential for the widespread improvement of farm
Whilst artificial insemination is not a cheap option there is
a general agreement that it possesses a number of distinct
advantages over natural breeding. The main advantage is that the
best stallion for your mare can be used irrespective of location.
Progressive breeders like to make full use of sires that have proven
themselves able to pass on desirable characteristics to their
progeny. Mares that cannot travel or have a foal at foot, or mares
with an injury not detrimental to foaling but that prevents them
from supporting a natural covering can all benefit from AI. More
importantly the use of AI can prevent the transmission of infection
and lessen the risk of injury to both the stallion and the mare.
Within the UK , chilled semen is most commonly used. This
involves the semen being collected from the stallion, extended and
placed in an Equitainer to be sent to the mare for immediate
insemination. The Equitainer is designed to allow the semen to cool
down whilst in transit thus wasting no time. The semen can remain
viable for up to 72 hours if kept in this container.
Monitoring the mare whilst she is in season is vital to ensure
that the insemination is timed correctly. When using chilled semen
constant contact with the stallion owner is of great importance as
this helps ensure that the semen arrives with the mare for
insemination at the optimum time.
By making chilled semen available from a stallion it is
possible for the stud to make their stallion accessible to mares
based some distance from them. Thus a stallion in Wiltshire can
provide semen for a mare in Scotland! Before despatching chilled
semen it is essential that the quality of the semen is checked.
For many mare owners the use of chilled or frozen semen can
open up a whole new genetic base not previously available to them
thus helping to improve their existing stock. In some of the
minority breeds where there are very few stallions available to
choose from the use of imported semen becomes an option which
requires careful consideration.
In order for semen to be imported to or exported from the UK
it is necessary for the stallion to be quarantined for a minimum
period of 30 days and to be tested for a number of diseases such as
EVA, Equine Infectious Anaemia and CEM. This is to safeguard the
mares on whom the semen is to be used and their unborn foals. When
thinking about using imported frozen semen consideration should also
be given to the quality of the semen which is being provided.
When importing semen from countries other than those in the
European Union licences from the Ministry of Agriculture must be
obtained as well as export licences and health certificates from the
competent authority in the exporting countries. If the semen is
being imported from a EU country it should be accompanied by the
relevant health certificates but does not now require import and
For stallion owners in the UK the option of having semen
collected and frozen from their stallion for future use opens up a
whole new dimension to the services which they can offer. Collection
and storage of semen for use within the UK is primarily seen as an
insurance policy should the stallion be injured. It also enables a
stallion who is competing to fulfil his stud duties whilst still
concentrating on a competitive career. It is further possible to
store semen so that bloodlines can be re-introduced at a later date;
this is particularly useful where the progeny of a stallion prove
themselves after his death.
By having semen collected for export the stallion owner can
sell coverings from his stallion all year round. When the covering
season in the northern hemisphere is coming to a close the season in
the southern hemisphere is just getting underway. Whilst
quarantining and transporting a stallion to Australia for the
breeding season may not be cost effective, not to mention very
stressful for the stallion, the collection and export of frozen
semen could be! The quarantining of stallions for the collection of
semen for export involves testing for various diseases as laid down
by the competent authority of the importing country. This has to be
carried out at a DEFRA approved quarantine facility by a veterinary
surgeon approved by the Ministry in the UK. After the
tests have been carried the semen is collected, frozen and stored
prior to shipping.
Exporting semen from the UK to countries worldwide is a way of
spreading the genetic base and introducing new bloodlines into
countries without the risk or expense of transporting the stallion.
A number of countries do not allow the importation of in-foal mares
so it is not possible to send a mare to a stallion in the UK and
then return her home before foaling.
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'What Is This ?