EQUINE REPRODUCTION NEWS:
Operation During COVID-19 Pandemic
At this time, other than the above, the only changes relate to a request that if you or a close associate (household member, fellow worker etc.) are currently showing signs of sickness compatible with COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have returned from a trip in a known "risk" country that you refrain from coming to our facility, and that you contact us if such a visit is needed for some reason (e.g. pick up semen or drop off a mare) so that we may work with you to make safe arrangements that will work for everyone. Similarly, if you fall into the same category of persons and have received a shipment of semen from us and are returning the container, please contact us to let us know that we need to take additional biosecurity measures upon receipt of our container, and so that we can also take care of our courier driver and warn them of any such risk.
We thank you for helping us to continue to help you.
Jos, Kathy and the staff at Equine-Reproduction.com, LLC
IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR BREEDERS IN CANADA!Zoetis Canada has stopped production of the Equine Arteritis Vaccine "Arvac". We have been advised that the item is "discontinued" and that there is no intention to recommence production.
Given that there are EAV-positive and shedding stallions in Canada, this is a bad situation for North American breeders. Canada has a low incidence of EVA, but - as with any disease - if controls are not in place, there can always be an outbreak. To give you an idea of the effect of such a outbreak, one can look at the results of the 2006 outbreak which originated in New Mexico, USA. Two stallions were identified as "shedders" on the index farm - and this identification occurred only by accident when the farm's own broodmare band exhibited a low pregnancy rate at their 60 day check. Both stallions were shipping semen. By the time the outbreak was identified and brought under control, an estimated 2,022 horses housed in 50 different facilities in 19 different states were affected - note "affected", not "infected", meaning that they had been exposed and consequently were placed under observation and quarantine. Some of those animals did indeed become EAV-seropositive (although we do not know if stallions were affected), and new regulations for shipping semen were introduced into Montana, Washington, Idaho and Oregon states. This was from a single incident, so the implications are significant.
For mare owners breeding to an EAV-positive and shedding stallion, this presents an additional complication to the breeding process if the mare is not current on vaccination. An unvaccinated (or low-titre) mare will be highly likely to contract the disease if bred to an EAV-positive and shedding stallion. While she herself will have no reduction in pregnancy establishment or maintenance rates, if she is exposed to other pregnant mares or a stallion within the 4 weeks or so of contracting the disease, she herself is in a "shedding" state through oronasal secretions, and this route of infection carries a high rate of infection for other pregnant mares (with a high likelihood of subsequent abortion for those mares) or stallions. It is therefore essential that mares bred to an EAV-positive and shedding stallion be kept isolated from susceptible stock following the breeding process, and for an additional 28 days. Neonatal foals at foot for the mare being bred also face increased risk of infection, and although in the case of colt foals development of "shedding" status is not a concern at that age (it requires elevated testosterone levels in order to develop shedding status, which colts prior to puberty will not have), in rare instances - particularly with already sick or debilitated foals - it could prove fatal.
For owners of unvaccinated stallions or those with low titres, it is essential that they do not allow exposure to a mare in the active (acute) stages of the disease, as a stallion in that category could become infected and subsequently a permanent shedder. The stallion is the natural reservoir for the virus. This situation could in particular occur with a mare which has been previously bred to a shedder stallion, failed to become pregnant, and then on the next cycle is presented for breeding to the naive stallion.
From a scientific perspective, although mares bred to shedder stallions will develop naturally elevated antibodies (and therefore immunity), there is an increased risk of mutation of the virus. Currently with Arvac, we in North America (now only the USA) have a good vaccine which protects against the strains present. If a mutation occurs however, this protection may no longer be present.
We have several articles and a presentation regarding Equine Viral Arteritis on the website in the articles section - they are towards the foot of the page.
Equine Reproduction Receives Welcome Boost in the UKEquine reproduction in the UK has received a boost in that noted specialist Dr. Jonathan Pycock is now BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association) president. Dr. Pycock is encouraging increased research and presentation of the subject, and an enjoyable first step is the Equine Veterinary Journal's release of 10 papers viewable on-line by all. These are available on the EVJ website.
Dr. Pycock has been a long-time supporter of Equine-Reproduction.com and has kindly provided us with articles and presentations for many years, some of which can be found in our articles section. We are proud and happy to offer our congratulations to Dr. Pycock, and British horse breeding, as well as our thanks for his support. We must also offer thanks to his wife Gill for provision of the accompanying photo of Dr. Pycock!
So How Long Does Frozen Equine Semen Remain Fertile?It's a question periodically asked, and durations as long as 10-50,000 years have been suggested as answers, but although that sounds good, what is the actual known duration of viability of stored frozen equine semen?
Last year, Equine-Reproduction.com LLC was asked to assist in fertility evaluation of semen frozen from the great Olympic show jumper "Galoubet A". Galoubet himself had died in 2005, and the semen had been frozen in the mid to late 1980's. Two pregnancies were established, although one was lost between 45 and 60 days of gestation, despite having developed a heartbeat. The second pregnancy successfully proceeded to term and the filly shown at left - "Galoubelle d'Avalon", owned by Avalon Equine is the athletic result, seen here at just 2 days of age! It is thought that this foal may be the first offspring of Galoubet A to have been produced by the use of frozen semen since the stallion's death.
The dose of semen which resulted in the failed pregnancy had been frozen in 1987. We cannot of course determine if the loss was related to the semen, although the mare bred was a young mare with a sound reproductive evaluation. The semen which resulted in Galoubelle d'Avalon had been frozen prior to 1987, with the straws carrying no freeze date or having accompanying information. It is thought however to likely date from about 1985-86. From this, we can safely say that frozen semen if stored correctly will maintain fertility for at least 28-30 years!
AQHA Cryopreserved Reproductive Material Rule Change Leaves Some ConfusedIn 2003, the AQHA rewrote a rule to allow indefinite use of cryopreserved sperm, embryos or oocytes with which to register a resulting foal following the donor's death or sterilization. The industry "scuttlebut" suggests that the owner of a stallion which had died contacted the AQHA and showed a willingness to pursue legal action if the then-existing rule was maintained. The rule which was re-written limited the registration of foals produced by frozen semen to those produced by use no later than the end of the year following the stallion's death. Whether such pressure truly was effected is unclear, but certainly the rule change appeared only shortly after a significant award of damages against AQHA had been made following a lawsuit brought regarding the restriction of a single embryo transfer foal registration per year.
Now the regulation regarding the use of the cryopreserved material - including both semen and embryos - has been changed back again.
At the AQHA annual convention this year, the decision to change the rule once again was made. The new (old) rules will be written as subsections to Reg 111 and 112, and will limit the use of the reproductive material to within the two years following the donor animal's death or sterilization. This however - and this is where some confusion has arisen - only applies to product obtained from animals which were born in 2015 or later. If one already has cryopreserved material stored from animals which were foaled last year (2014) or earlier, then that material can be used to register foals indefinitely. This does seem to present somewhat of a restriction for owners of animals produced this year or later, when their competition with already-stored product have the ability to indefinitely reproduce their animals in the event of an untimely (or even timely) demise or castration.
The change in the rule was made to allegedly address the possible reduction of the gene pool with the widespread use of frozen semen after a stallion's death. Veterinarian and AQHA President Dr. Glenn Blodget is reported as saying "This new rule points the Association in the direction of more responsible breeding practices and broadening the gene pool". As horse breeders are notoriously fickle in their stallion choice - more often than not seeking the current top producing stallion or "flavour of the month" - it is not clear how this is really going to make a huge impact in the long-run. It is generally seen and agreed that once a stallion dies, although there will be some mares bred using frozen semen after his death, the popularity of the stallion will decline as a son or some other horse completely takes his place in the limelight. It would appear possible that this rule amendment may in fact place extra strain on a popular stallion while he is still alive to produce even more foals per year, as the mare owners will know that there will be this limitation after his death. Similarly, it would seem a possibility that within those two years, there will a increased number of breedings as his popularity will not have diminished in that time frame, and the pressure will be increased to "get a last foal from..."! As a final possible negative point, there are situations where bloodlines or horse types which are beneficial end up being lost owing to changes in "fads", immediate demand, or simply unfortunate circumstances. Subsequently if it is discovered that those bloodlines are desirable and the availability of frozen semen from long-dead stallions is present, a resurrection of lineage can be obtained. It now seems unlikely that anyone will maintain semen for years after a stallion's death as this rule change will not allow registration of the resultant product of the old bloodlines.
One positive aspect with this rule change is that it will reduce the possibility of fraudulent use of semen from a clone of a dead stallion. While that possibility will of course still exist, it is now going to be limited in only being able to occur in the two years following the DNA donor's death or castration, which reduces the potential for "contamination" of the Stud Book, should such a practice occur.
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Equine reproduction topics covered in our articles section on this site include artificial insemination (A.I.); information about, and the use of frozen semen; stallion handling articles, including "phantom mare" training, and other semen collection methods; the collecting and processing of cooled transported semen; different equipment and supplies needed for semen collection and processing, and artificial insemination; managing the mare for breeding (including hormonal manipulation and the use of other drugs such as Oxytocin); and some articles relative to foals and foaling.
It's our aim to bring you not only a wide selection of articles about both basic and advanced equine reproduction topics; but also a variety of links to sites containing more information about horse breeding. There is a book sale section where we list and review books on equine reproduction that are offered for sale there in association with Amazon.com. We also invite you to review our equine reproduction short course details, as well as stallion semen freezing and other services that Equine-Reproduction.com is pleased to be able to offer the horse-breeding public. Our bulletin board is an active community with a large membership that discusses and provides information on a wide variety of equine reproduction topics.
If you have a question about anything you see on our site, or about any other equine reproduction matters, or if you have a subject that you feel would be a good topic for an article to be written about, please contact us! Feedback is important to us to make this a useful site for all. If you would like to add a link to this site from your own, please feel free to do so. To assist you in this, we have some pre-formatted links available for you to copy here.
Please use the buttons at the top of this page or the text links below to visit the rest of the site, and remember to return periodically, as new information and articles are added regularly. If you have comments, questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us using the mail form on the contact page.