OK, I have a 22 yr old TB broodmare that has had at least 5 foals, that I know of. Her last one is currently 3 yrs old. She was bred the next 2 years after the last foal, but failed to settle and was retired as a broodmare. She only came into my possession last winter, but she has special familial meaning to me, and I would love to try and get her bred one last time next year.
The stallion she was bred to (but did not take)was also older, and is now 23 yrs old. I do know that she has at least a couple cycts lurking around in there. The vet I use is the same her previous owner uses, and while not a theriogenologist (did I spell that right? ), she is extremely knowledgeable about breeding and knows the inside of this mare very well. I mentioned it in passing to her when she was out recently to stitch up a naughty yearling who got in trouble, and she mentioned there were several things we could do to try and help her take next year. I would probably like to breed her back to a TB, to hopefully get a filly to carry on her genes. However, I might choose an Irish Draught and then could use cooled semen.
First on the vet's list was to try a younger stallion, then she also mentioned using Regumate. She's coming back out this Friday to take stitches and staples out of said yearling, and I want to talk with her more in-depth about breeding my old mare. What questions do I really need to ask her, aside from having a standard breeding soundness exam and culture/biopsy done? This would be the first time I've attempted breeding a mare this age, so want to do everything I can to help. But if it's just not in the cards, then so be it, and she'll have a good retirement with me. Thanks for any advice anyone can give!
Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - 12:00 pm:
The chances are that the blame for failure to conceive is to be laid at your mare's door rather than the stallion's despite his age. The only caveat on that point is of course that the stallion does still have to be producing viable sperm. The incidence of failure to produce adequate numbers of viable sperm owing to age vs. unsuitable uterine environment being the cause of failure of pregnancy establishment is however a far smaller percentage.
So, let's look at you mare:
Certainly a good breeding soundness evaluation including a biopsy and culture are a good starting point. You should also evaluate external reproductive conformation with a view to the possible need for a Caslick's procedure. Presuming that all things are considered adequate in those evaluations, the next major point that I would consider of importance is that the mare is almost certainly suffering from delayed uterine clearance. This is a condition where the mare's uterus is unable to adequately clear fluids and/or irritants associated with estrus and breeding. It is extremely common and leads to endometritis, with associated pregnancy failure. It is usually quite easily managed with the use of ecbolics such as are presented in the article we have on use of oxytocin. It is this protocol that we would follow LONG before considering the use of Regumate - in fact, pretty much any theriogenologist will tell you that there is a considerable overuse of progestin therapy to "support pregnancy", so it does cause a little bit of alarm in me when you indicate that your veterinarian is immediately reaching for the Regumate bottle... You can read more about the (ab)use of progestin therapy in our article about it to be found here. A good question to ask your vet might perhaps be for a specific reason as to why she recommends Regumate... based upon what clinical evaluation. And don't accept a nebulous "well it's helped in other instances". Helped how??? You should also discuss the oxytocin protocol - and note that it's not just a single shot per day, but requires intensive therapy at least every 6 hours, and possible for the entire duration of estrus depending upon how problematic the mare is!
Successfully breeding older mares and establishing pregnancy can certainly be difficult, and there are definitely instances where it's time to throw in the towel, but age alone is not the reason. One needs to see some specifically defined problems such as a grade III biopsy or persistent fluid in the uterus that will not clear even after thorough and suitable treatment.
Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - 01:32 pm:
Thanks, Jos. I know the stallion owner (also my mare's previous owner) said that he did settle 4 mares this year, and pretty sure that that's all she bred, so I guess he's still batting 1000 despite his age...
She did say that when she was last trying to get the mare pregnant, the vet would ultrasound her and could predict ovulation very accurately, and then she would only cover the mare one time. Would multiple covers, as is usually done, be more productive to helping her take? Or would the increased covering add to the irritation of the uterus and compound the effects of the delayed clearance?
I know I've seen you "preach" about the overuse of Regumate on here, so that's why I specifically mentioned that my vet had also mentioned it in my original post. The mare is an absolute doll to handle, and I know she would tolerate the oxytocin shots to an extent. If this route is taken, at what point can you decide she can be weaned off the oxytocin? That being said, if it turned out she needed to be kept on it for the duration, personally I wouldn't want to put her through that every day, just for the chance of getting a live baby. I'm not doing this for money reasons, merely personal, and it's not worth it to me to make her miserable for 11 months just to make me happy in the end.
Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - 08:22 pm:
You want the minimum number of breedings possible. In a perfect world, you would be doing AI as well, rather than live cover, and using only the required number of sperm (500 million progressively motile, morphologically normal sperm). Sperm are an irritant to the uterus and the more that are put in there (and the more often), the more irritation there will be and with an older mare, that represents a problem.
Oxytocin use is not particularly traumatic for the mare as long as she is not one of the rare mares that goes ballistic with injections. The volume being used is only 1 ml and one can use an insulin syringe, which has a very small needle. Most mares don't even notice the injection, or just react as though it was a fly bite. As far as the effect of oxytocin - it is the hormone that is released during teasing and breeding, so it is nothing unnatural. With these older delayed uterine mares, you are merely increasing the hormone level, which in fact may be lacking.
Immediate suggestion of Regumate use without any other evaluation always makes me a little "hinky" about the abilities of the person doing the recommending...
Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2011 - 07:05 am:
Thanks again for providing me with such a detailed explanation. I'll take notes when I speak to the vet tomorrow and "report" back to you to see if something doesn't sound right.
I checked the AAEP website to do a search for a vet specializing in theriogenology, but there are none practicing in my immediate area. Despite me living in a very horsey area, with some pretty high dollar farms. I contacted one who practices about 30 miles away, but she said it would be too far for her to drive for only one customer (and I only have 2 broodmares), so I'm stuck with what I've got.
OK, I was able to ask a few more questions to the vet, but she was already running late when she got to my place so didn't have time to go in-depth. She started off by saying the first thing would be to do a biopsy (which I already knew needed to be done). She said pending a good outcome for that, she again brought up the Regumate.
Now, the silver lining to this is that, over the weekend, I happened to bring up the subject of repro work to an aquaintance of mine. She told me of another vet that does service my area, but I had never heard of. (and by the by, the web link you gave me didn't give any help, unfortunately) This vet specializes in breeding, but not sure if he's actually a theriogenologist. He has done things as advanced as embryo transfer, so the prospect is looking good. I'm planning on giving his office a call this week to try and speak with him. I think my mare is already starting to transistion into anestrus, so the biopsy will probably have to wait until next spring. But at least I can ask his opinion and advice and go from there. Thank you again very much for all your help, Jos, and for hosting such an invaluable website. It is much appreciated!
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