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Setting up a lab

Ask questions, and get some insight into frozen semen, it's preparation and use.

Moderator: Jos

Setting up a lab

Postby EdA » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:45 am

I am breeding wb's since 2005 and our farm is located in a remote area, with no equine vet (only large animal vets) within 2hrs drive and no repro vet within 3hrs drive. Each year when we have to breed our mares with frozen semen, we have to move them to one of the 2 only available repro centers and it's a 4.5hrs drive, with young foals etc. And then the mares has to stay there until they are safely in foal usually 30days+ so they basically spent between 6 and 8 weeks away from home. With all the money I have spent in boarding, repro and transportation, I have done the maths and I would have a heck of a nice setup up here. :)

I do my own repro work at home for the mares bred with cooled transported semen with good success. My next step is to purchase an ultra sound machine (at around 80$ per ultrasound, plus around 100$ for the vet visit, I do the maths and within two seasons, I think I can recoup the costs of buying my own us machine... plus, I will have the check ups WHEN I need them... not when/if the vet is available) and go to a breeders's course, and to get used to. But we are toying with the idea of adding a new section to the barn, and put up stocks, a lab, etc. And give a try to do our own frozen semen inseminations. Mares would stay at home (less stress for them and their young foals), I would not have to drive 4.5hrs each week to go see them etc. (less travel expenses), the cost of keeping them at home is 1/3 of the one of boarding them at the vet's repro center and with 2 to 3 mares to breed each year, I would certainly recoup my investment within few years only.

So... I know I would need a tank (looking at the XC Millenium 20), an ultrasound machine (still very unsure what I need, and I have not an ulimited budget so I have to make a wise, yet affordable choice, that will last for a while), a thawing bath (I want to have a real one instead of a home made one as I want to maximize the precision), stocks (hubby is good with wood and steel etc we would look at what is on the market and do our own custom one)...

And then. What else would I need? What are the accessories I would need for the tank, for the lab, for the insemination, for manipulation of the semen ? I want to stick to the essentials, but in the same time, I want to have everything I need to be autonomous.

I would also like to get an idea of the costs, and of what I should get absolutely brand new (the tank will be, but what else) and what I can reliably buy second hand without fearing it will last long enough?

Thanks for sharing your "setting up a lab" experience with me :)
EdA
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Re: Setting up a lab

Postby admin » Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:26 am

Let's break down frozen semen use into three portions: Storage, thawing and insemination.

For storage one requires the tank, a supply of liquid nitrogen, a dipstick and a sheet of paper for recordation of dips (as well as another for recording where all the semen is located). You can make a dipstick out of a wooden yardstick that is spray-painted matt-black on one side (not obscuring the measurement portion). One should dip the tank weekly and record the depth - the stick will frost up to the level of the nitrogen. Doing this allows one to determine a routine level of loss as well getting an indication of when to refill (ideally when half-full) or if there is a sudden drop. The Millenium 20 XC from SemenTanks.com is a good tank for the small breeder.

Thawing will require a container in which to thaw the semen - the type will depend a little upon the size of straw being used - as well as a thermometer and timer, and of course a source for warm water. You will also require haemostats or tweezers in order to remove the straws from the canister (and goblet/cane is using ½-ml straws) in the tank. If the semen arrives in bulk, you will also require canes and goblets into which to transfer the semen when it arrives. It is wise to evaluate the semen to determine motility, and for that one should have a microscope that is capable of 100x and 400x magnification, as well as slides, coverslips and a slide warmer. The slide warmer can be home-made.

For insemination you will require pipettes and all-plastic syringes of a suitable size (usually 10-ml for frozen semen). It also may be useful to have a little extender with which to "chase" the semen from the pipette (INRA '96 is often used for this). If not using the Minitube "Universal" pipette with ½-ml straws, or not using ½-ml straws, then you will also need a receptacle into which to pool the semen before drawing up into the pipette - a centrifuge tube or Vacutainer works well. All the other usual required equipment for insemination also still applies of course (tailwrap, wash buckets etc.).

Your thoughts about attending a course are also sensible, and you might want to talk to us about our one-on-one tuition as we could tailor-make a course of whatever duration you want or need for the subject matter that you specifically require.
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