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Stallion and Semen Management


2015/01/03

The two main options for breeding your mare involve natural mating or artificial insemination. Natural mating includes hand breeding and pasture breeding; while artificial insemination includes using fresh, cooled semen or frozen semen. The following tables are designed to be a quick reference regarding the advantages and disadvantages of these common breeding options:
 
Table 1. Advantages and disadvantages of natural mating:
 
Advantages Disadvantages
·         Natural breeding process; the mare and stallion know when the time is right to breed
·         Quick procedure
·         Easy with good animals and good handlers
 
·         More risk of spreading disease
·         May need to transport mare to stallion
·         Increased risk of injury to the mare and stallion
 
Table 2. Advantages and disadvantages of artificial insemination:
 
Advantages Disadvantages
·         Limits the spread of disease
·         Reduces the risk of injury to the stallion and mare
·         Reduces the need to transport your mare
·         One stallion can breed more mares with a single ejaculate and over an entire breeding season
·         More people have access to semen from top-performing stallions
·         Allows evaluation of stallion semen prior to insemination
·         More technically complex, which increases the chance for human error
·         Semen may be lost in transport
·         Not all breed associations accept this type of breeding
·         Increased risk of human injury, particularly during the semen collection process
 
If artificial insemination is preferred, the next choice is whether to use fresh, cooled semen or frozen semen. Fresh, cooled semen and frozen semen share many advantages and disadvantages, but there are some additional disadvantages that must be considered when using frozen semen:
  1. Pregnancy rates are generally reduced when using frozen semen.
  2. Frozen semen is more likely to cause a persistent mating induced endometritis.
  3. Not all stallion semen “freezes” very well; therefore only use frozen semen with acceptable post-thaw semen quality.
  4. Timing of ovulation relative to breeding is even more critical (shorter time window) with frozen semen than with fresh, cooled semen. Breeding within this narrow time frame requires more intense reproductive management with repeated rectal palpations.
 
However, the main advantage of using frozen semen rather than fresh, cooled semen is the fact that there is no need to coordinate the mare’s ovulation with the stallion’s collection days. Instead, frozen semen is stored in liquid nitrogen tanks to have available as soon as the mare is
 
Preparation for Breeding Season
 
Stallion body condition
 
Treat stallions as if they are an athlete during breeding season, even if their only job is to cover mares. Feed your stallion to maintain ideal body weight and condition to support the demands of breeding performance. Nutrition has a significant impact on stallion fertility, with energy derived from fat as a significant contributor. Use good nutritional plans and exercise to keep stallions in optimal breeding condition. It is recommended to feed stallions a commercial feed with appropriate levels of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to maintain ideal body condition during breeding season. Work with your veterinarian and/or an equine nutritionist to design a tailor-made feeding program to keep your stallion in top shape.
 
Stallion biosecurity
 
Protect your stallion from infectious disease through farm management practices pre-breeding vaccination protocols. There are several infectious diseases that can result in an elevation of body temperature. Any body temperature above 102°F can damage sperm cells at all levels of maturity, and it takes up to 60 days for the stallion to produce new, mature sperm cells which is required for return to his former fertility level. Work with your veterinarian to develop a vaccination protocol that is protective against these diseases in your area. Management of your stallion to reduce their risk of contracting fever-causing diseases includes:
 
·         Optimizing immunity through vaccination, nutrition, and proper deworming
 
·         Limiting exposure to infectious organisms with biosecurity measures such as quarantine periods, frequent monitoring of temperature and vital signs for early disease detection, separate housing, and a diligent hygiene regimen for all handlers in contact with the stallion
 
 
Proper health care and management is key to your breeding season and having healthy foals in your pasture. Work closely with your veterinarian and Extension personnel to develop a program that fits your operation. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me at 865 974 3538, lstrick5@utk.edu
 
Lew Strickland DVM, MS, DACT
Extension Veterinarian
University of Tennessee
Department of Animal Science
Large Animal Clinic Science
College of Veterinary Medicine

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