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THE MANY BENEFITS OF FREEZING SEMEN
By Stephanie Webb
Vista Equine Colorado
While freezing semen certainly isn’t a new procedure, it is one that is gaining more and more popularity as an incredibly convenient, and even necessary, breeding option for stallion owners.
The process of freezing semen involves collecting the stallion with a breeding phantom and artificial vagina, analyzing the collection for the number and quality of the sperm cells present, and processing that sample through specialized extenders to heavily concentrate and prepare those sperm cells for cryopreservation or “freezing”. A precise number of sperm cells will be divided into each frozen semen straw so we know how many straws will be needed to make an ideal breeding dose. Those straws are then frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen.
Freezing semen is a time consuming procedure that needs to be handled by highly trained professionals. Since it is so time consuming, many facilities such as Vista Equine Colorado, LLC, like to schedule stallions to have semen frozen during the summer and fall months; outside of the regular breeding season. There are many steps that a facility like this will take to ensure the quality of the frozen semen including test cooling prior to freezing and thawing and examining a straw from every collection that is frozen. With these steps followed, and as long as the mares are managed very carefully, such as those in the Vista Equine Colorado breeding management and embryo transfer programs, you can expect successful results when breeding with frozen semen.
You may be asking yourself, “Why should I freeze semen on my stallion?” There are numerous explanations why, but outlined here are a few of the most popular reasons owners are deciding to freeze semen on their stallions.
Genetic preservation has been, by far, the most common reason for stallion owners to freeze semen on their stallions in the past. Having semen frozen on your stallion is the only way to preserve his genetics for future use. It can serve as an insurance policy against future collection issues, infertility, or death of the stallion. Once a stallion’s semen is frozen, and properly stored, the semen will keep indefinitely in liquid nitrogen.
Any stallion can suffer an injury or simply have an old injury begin to cause enough discomfort that it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for him to be collected. With frozen semen already in storage there is no need to further attempt collections on him and allow him to retire from the breeding shed, yet still produce offspring.
Having that bank of semen stored is even more important in the event of his death. Mare owners in every discipline are realizing more and more that there are huge benefits in continuing to breed to top sires even after their deaths. Having semen stored on your stallion allows you to continue to sell breedings and have your stallion produce winning offspring many years after he is gone.
Another benefit to having semen frozen is allowing mares to be bred that might not otherwise be able to be accommodated. A particular stallion might have more mares on his book than he can handle by only breeding with cooled semen. Breeding doses will be calculated upon his collection and there may not be enough sperm cell numbers on given collection day(s) for him to be able to breed all of the mares that are ready. With frozen semen, those extra mares can still be bred and none of them have to be turned away. Throughout a breeding season many mares can be bred this way allowing a stallion owner to maximize the number of mares bred without jeopardizing the quality of the cooled semen that is available.
What is proving to be one of the most popular reasons to freeze semen on stallions, as of late, is the ability to breed a full book of mares to a stallion that is still competing without ever having to collect him during breeding season. This option has turned many stallion owners onto the idea of breeding mares to their top young horses. These young stallions can be collected throughout the summer and fall, have that semen frozen, and use it for the following breeding season(s).
In the past stallion owners and trainers have had to make arrangements with veterinary clinics that they are possibly unfamiliar with, to collect these very valuable horses. Trying to make appointment times for last minute orders with unknown collection facilities and staff is certainly enough of a hassle that many owners and trainers understandably don’t want to deal with it. To top it off those stallions are usually on the road to their next com-petition and the collection process can serve as a distraction and liability shortly before he needs to perform. Now these owners can still breed mares without having to interrupt his schedule or his mindset!
Freezing semen on stallions has many, many benefits. A few more examples could be an owner wanting to sell a horse but retain ownership of some of his semen. We can also open up the door to breeding outside of the United States with USDA approved frozen semen. Whatever the reason may be, the benefits of freezing semen on your stallion are virtually endless.
Courtesy Stephanie Webb & Jake Dahl
Vista Equine Colorado
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