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Breeding Programs with Cooled and Frozen - Thawed Stallion Semen

By: Dr. Sylvia Bedford-Guaus

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Advantages
        
  • Many of the advantages of using frozen-thawed equine semen are similar to those stated for cooled-transported semen.
            
  • An added advantage of frozen-thawed equine semen is that you can have it at the farm in a liquid nitrogen tank 'ready to go' and therefore can use it as soon as the mare is ready to ovulate without having to coordinate the time of shipment in relation to mare readiness.
            
  • Semen from the stallion can be used while the stallion is at shows or even after his death (please note that some breed associations will not allow registering a foal bred with frozen semen after the death of the stallion).

    Disadvantages

  • Freezing semen successfully requires not only very good quality semen to start with, but also expensive specialized equipment and extensive training.

  • The frequent checks required for optimal breeding timing in the mare can result in a very expensive veterinary bill.

  • Results with frozen-thawed semen are suboptimal and quite variable among stallions and mares. Fertility rates vary from 0 to 80 percent when using frozen-thawed semen, with the most important variables being the particular stallion and breeding management.

    The Basics of Freezing and Thawing

    It is important that you seek professional advice if you are intending to start a freezing program. Freezing stallion semen requires specialized and expensive equipment, and there are many different techniques and extenders used to freeze semen.

    As a general guideline, most extenders to freeze stallion semen contain a cryoprotectant to buffer sperm during the freezing process. These are usually egg yolk or glycerol or, most commonly, a combination of both.

    Prior to adding the freezing extender, semen to be frozen is centrifuged and the seminal fluid is separated from the sperm cells. Then the sperm cells are rediluted into the freezing medium and packaged into plastic straws. These are either placed into an automated freezer machine or over liquid nitrogen vapor prior to plunging into the liquid nitrogen for storage in a special tank. Frozen straws may last for indefinite periods of time as long as the temperature conditions in the storage tank are kept constant.

    Straws used for insemination of mares should not be thawed until the mare is prepared for insemination. This is usually done by plunging them into a water bath at a given temperature, which may range from 98.6 to 122 degrees F (37 to 50 C), for variable periods of time. The thawing method depends largely on the freezing method, and therefore straws for insemination are always shipped with a sheet explaining appropriate thawing instructions. These should be strictly followed for optimal results.

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