A little background first...I tried AI with shipped chilled semen a few years back with 2 mares with zero success. Ended up taking the mares to the stallion and conceived on first breeding. Since then it's been strictly natural cover for all the pregnancies we have achieved.
Now my husband & I are considering AI/shipping again for a maiden mare we are considering breeding this year. But based on my past experience, I am a bit gun shy.
I took the Equine-Reproduction short course several years ago (and I can't recommend it highly enough, so go if you get the chance!) From that and from checking the topics, I realize that I should ask about first cycle conception rates for the various types of breeding. I also realize that I want to know about the availability of collections or any time limitations that might be placed on when shipments can be requested.
But what else should I ask the stallion owner or manager about? I'm sure some of you have learned from past experiences, and in hindsight, might have thought to ask more questions. What information did you wish you had known going in? Please help me out if you can think of any suggestions for me.
I've done live cover, frozen, and cooled, though have only bred a few times. I'd be very careful with frozen unless you have some kind of really good contract that guarantees a foal. Depending on the motility, it can be very hard.
Fresh cooled should be a lot easier. Ask about what the average motility of the sperm is after it's been shipped and your vet receives it. A stallion might have great live sperm, but then not so great after some cooling. I think the stallion I used was about 80% when I got it, which is very, very good. (The first time I bred with him she got pregnant with twins right off--pinched one off. The second time we only used half a dose and she got pregnant first time.) Hopefully they will tell you the truth.
And, yes, you need to know when they will collect. Some do it only on certain days. This can get to be a problem. The stallion owners I dealt with were great about this and really worked around everything I needed to do. Fed Ex can be great, but they may not always ship. If need be, will they put it on a plane where you can pick it up at the airport? How close are you to a major airport, and them?
Also, ask them what you need to know. A good stallion manager should be telling you what you need to know. If they're not . . .
Just a couple of minor points to clarify on Sora's post:
Frozen thawed sperm motility does not equate to fertility. You can have good motility and semen that will get absolutely nothing pregnant (there can be changes to the sperm itself in the freezing/thawing process that prevent pregnancy establishment) - and vice-versa, you can have poor motility that produces OK pregnancy rates. Obviously zero motility is not desirable, but it still may not be the absolute kiss of death!
Don't discount frozen as it may actually be easier to deal with than cooled, at least in my opinion and dependent upon the fertility. With cooled semen one has to order the semen at the right time relative to ovulation and that can be a challenge with some mares! With frozen, while there are some constraints with regard to duration of viability once inseminated, all one has to do is monitor the mare for the correct time to breed as the semen is already sitting right there in the tank beside the mare!
The advice on asking the stallion manager for general assistance and guidance is good, as - as noted - if they can't answer you or you get the impression that they are making it up as they go along, that in itself can tell you something about whether you want to breed to that stallion!
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