Frozen all the way
Frozen semen opens new doors for breeders! Are you ready to enter this new world of breeding?
Many people have not ever used frozen semen in their breeding program and there is a big learning curve. Here at Future Foal @ Summerwind, we began our learning with our Marchador mares and our stallion La Paz Jivago, before entering into importing frozen semen from Brazil.
Here are some of our learnings and answers to common questions we had. For our education, we rely heavily on our breeding vet Dr. Jerry Longworth of Scottsdale Equine Reproductive Center, located in Scottsdale AZ. We also read and subscribe to the educational writings of SBS – Select Breeders Service. Their founder Paul Loomis, froze the first stallion semen for a client in 1981 while at Colorado State University. You might say, SBS wrote the book and thankfully, they are more than happy to share their knowledge online. SBS is in the US, Europe and Australia with more than 3,000 stallions in their database.
Frozen semen – the advantages:
For the stallion owner:
- No stress. Collections can be less frequent or timed during the off-season. It might be when your breeding vet is less busy too. Shipping can be done at any time, and stored at the mare’s location until she is ready.
- International breeding becomes an option. Frozen semen is the only way to ship internationally. Note: The semen may need to be collected and stored under different rules and regulations based on the country to be allowed to export.
- Always available. Even when your stallion is at a show, getting older or even after he has passed on, his frozen semen will be there for your breeding program.
For the mare owner:
- No stress. Store the semen at your facility until your mare is ready. No last minute shipments or missed ovulations which can be quite costly.
- More selection. International breeding becomes an option. You can now choose from an expanded list of partners for your mare.
- No need to keep a stallion. We call frozen semen “stallion in a box”.
How long does frozen semen last?
As long as it is maintained properly in a liquid nitrogen storage tank, the answer should be forever.
Are all stallions suitable for collection and freezing?
No. The stallion must be collected and evaluated for semen quality and motility. If the stallion can be collected and shipped using cooled semen, then most often, the semen can also be frozen.
Don’t wait until the stallion is older before you test him if you want to preserve his genetic material. Typically, the sperm production starts to decline around age 13.
The more sophisticated the breeding vet and facility, the more likely they will have the ability to freeze the semen in different ways to evaluate which extender works best for your stallion. Statistics of sperm count and motility are a good indicator, but in reality, the frozen semen must be tested to prove its reproductive qualities by producing pregnancies.
Are all mares suitable candidates for frozen semen?
No. Of course the first evaluation is to decide if the mare has suitable excellent qualities to consider being bred in the first place. For breeding using frozen semen, choosing mares that are proven to be reproductively solid is the best – a proven broodmare. Often, the mares are cultured to be sure there is no bacteria or infection in the uterus before breeding begins.
As the mare gets older, she is less able to deal with the inflammation and fluid that is part of the frozen semen breeding and success rates decline. The standard cut-off is 16 years of age.
What is the success rate using frozen semen?
Many studies have been done with varying percentages of success. Generally, the pregnancy rates have been quoted to be 30-50% success on one breeding cycle. However, the real number depends on the individual stallion.
Regardless of study or percentage you want to use, fresh semen has the highest percentage success rate. Cooled semen is next, but frozen semen is very close to cooled semen. As the techniques and education continue to improve, frozen semen may end up being just as effective as cooled.
What are the numbers?
- 30% or more progressively mobile sperm
- More than 200 million sperm in the breeding dose
- Pregnancy or # of pregnancies achieved using frozen semen from this individual stallion.
Is it more costly to breed using frozen semen?
Yes, as compared to cooled semen, it is. The cost of shipping the container is higher. The cost of the insemination process is also higher, with more ultrasounds may be required to get the timing for insemination with frozen semen to be timed correctly with the mare.
As compared to live cover or fresh semen, if you own the stallion, many people consider this breeding to be “free” and 100%, but the stallion may be breeding multiple times to achieve pregnancy and there are costs to keeping a stallion that are not “free”.
The other difference may be the price of the stud fee. Usually the best stallions are the ones frozen, so stud fees can be higher. There is also usually no refund if the mare fails to conceive. Because of that, the mare owner may want to purchase more than one breeding dose if priced per dose, or structure a contract based on pregnancy.
So what are the costs?
Veterinarian fees vary across the country. But, your vet should have a fee schedule so you can add up what the costs will be per breeding for the mare or per collection for the stallion. Here is the fee schedule from our veterinarian.
How do I pick a breeding vet?
To be safe, find a veterinarian who specializes in reproduction. Reproduction work is extremely demanding, especially in certain times of the year. They understand the demands of closely-timed breedings and foalings and their operation and staff will be organized to respond to that. They will also have the specialized equipment needed that an all-around vet may not have.
If you are in an area where this is not possible, find a vet who will commit to being on call 24/7 when necessary, do the research and reading on breeding using frozen semen and be willing to call the other breeding vet for help!
What are some of the big differences most people don’t think about?
Ordering the semen to have in storage for your breeding program. The more expensive frozen semen shipping containers are sometimes in high demand. Waiting (as with cooled semen) until your mare is ready could mean that no container is available. Storing semen is relatively inexpensive. Shipping multiple breeding doses can lower the cost of shipping and you get to breed on your schedule.
Timing IS everything using frozen semen. As a result, there are a lot of ultrasounds required to manage the process. Either your breeding vet should have a portable ultrasound if you are breeding at your farm or you will have to think about having your mare stay at a breeding facility to ensure that the timing is right. Keep her there until the 14-day check and then if no pregnancy was achieved, they can start the cycle again.
The after-breeding routine. The mare usually requires additional vet work a day or two after breeding to lessen the inflammation and remove any fluid in the uterus after breeding with frozen semen for the embryo to survive.
One hint, write it down – everything you learn about their individual cycle, the size of the follicle when breeding started, the size of the follicle at ovulation etc. Get to know your mares!
The Mangalarga Marchador mares are like some other older rustic breeds (Friesian is another). Their reproductive cycle is slower and they develop larger follicles that rarely ovulate below 45mm. If your breeding vet is ready to go with a follicle at 35mm, tell him to wait a day, sometimes two.
30 minutes – WEBINAR on frozen semen.
_________________________________________________________________________________Future Foal uses frozen semen for the access to world-class stallions in Brazil. Importing frozen semen from Brazil has been quite the project, one we have worked on for more than five years. Most breeders and vets in Brazil have not frozen their Marchador stallions at all, let alone under the USDA guidelines for exportation. So the importation process, while it appears simple, can be very time-consuming and costly.
We believe in the concept for improving quality and diversity in the emerging Marchador breed here and it will continue to give for generations! Imported frozen semen and the resulting foals will be our legacy. Future Foal currently offer SIX top stallions for breeding and is moving into another new area – frozen embryos. We are – frozen all the way!
Foals bred using our frozen semen: DaVinci do Summerwind (La Paz Jivago), Fidalgo do Summerwind (La Paz JIvago), Gaia do Summerwind (Oma de Maripa), Hawke do Summerwind (Ximoio de Maripa, Hallelujah do Summerwind (La Paz Jivago), Destiny’s Child (Talisma Kafe), Canadian Regente (Talisma Kafe), Jewel do Summerwind (Oma de Maripa)