Covid-19 (Coronavirus) – an update for our clients

Towcester Equine Breeding Services

Towcester Equine Vets are a trusted breeding centre with many returning clients. Our breeding team provide a comprehensive service with dedicated vets and nursing staff who are here for you throughout the season. We offer a variety of package options so we can tailor our service to suit each client and their horse(s).

We are a British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) approved centre for artificial insemination (A.I.). Other services include semen collection, analysis, processing and shipping as well as semen freezing and A.I. packages unique to our clinic.

We offer clients a purpose-built mare and foal examination room as well as a stallion collection facility. If you would like to discuss this further with our team, please call us on 01327 811007 or email: reception@towcesterequine.co.uk.

 

Artificial Insemination

As a BEVA approved centre for A.I. we thought we would share the advantages this offers over natural covering. We always encourage owners to make informed decisions about what would be best for their mare and our team is happy to answer any questions you may have.

  • Improved breeding success
  • A reduced risk of injury to both mare and stallion, this is a high risk during the natural covering process.
  • Access to a wider selection of stallions.
  • You have the option to use frozen semen from your chosen stallion if they are competing throughout the season (or if they have passed away).

If you decide you would like to move forward using A.I. we recommend a breeding soundness examination; we assess suitability for breeding by looking at vulva conformation, cervical quality and performing a detailed ultrasound examination of the reproductive tract to identify any problems that may affect fertility. The vet may also take a uterine swab to determine whether or not the uterus will need to be treated with antibiotics before or after insemination.

During this examination, your mare will also have swabs and a blood sample taken to be tested for Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM), Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) and Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA). These diseases can be spread through mating and cause complications during pregnancy including abortion. Results need to be obtained after the 1st January of the breeding year, within 28 days of insemination.

Once pre-breeding exams have been performed, we can make a plan to inseminate your mare with chilled semen either at our clinic or at your own yard. If you choose frozen semen for your mare, this will need to be completed at our clinic.

Towcester Equine Breeding Services offer an A.I. package which is updated annually. Contact the team on 01327 811007 to request a copy of the package on offer.

Sub-fertile mares

In sub-fertile mares we recommend uterine swabbing and biopsy to identify endometritis, which is the leading cause of poor fertility. Deep uterine insemination is sometimes required alongside additional hormonal manipulation, intra-uterine treatments, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. For these mares, chilled semen insemination usually has the best results or embryo transfer can be considered as an alternative method to achieveing pregnancy; this can be completed in conjunction with Twemlows Stud Farm. Please note that it is not unusual for mares to take up to 3 cycles to conceive.

 

Management post A.I.

Following insemination, our vets will often flush the uterus with sterile saline to remove dead sperm and debris, thereby reducing uterus inflammation. In some instances these mares will require intra-uterine antibiotic treatments or other medication to treat post-breeding endometritis. 24 – 48 hours post A.I. we will complete an ultrasound examination to confirm that ovulation occurred at the correct time.

 

Pregnancy diagnosis

To confirm pregnancy our breeding team will perform ultrasound examinations at 15, 28 and 45 days after ovulation. In mares that have ovulated twice, we always recommend a 14 and 16 day scan to identify twin ovulations and manage these as needed by pinching one of the embryos to reduce risk of abortion.

Whilst pregnant, we recommend vaccinating your mares against Equine Herpes Virus (EHV), Equine Influenza and tetanus. Your mare should receive an EHV vaccine at 5, 7 and 9 months and then an Influenza/Tetanus vaccine in the last 6-8 weeks of gestation.

 

Fresh, chilled or frozen semen – what should I pick?

If you have the choice of picking either fresh, chilled or frozen semen from your stallion, read below to help decide on the best option for your mare. The type of semen you pick will determine how your mare is managed during the insemination process.

 

Fresh Semen

This option is suitable if the stallion can visit Towcester Equine Vets for the semen to be collected. Following collection, the semen will be evaluated and extended if necessary – an extender is a type of preservative to help keep the semen as healthy as possible. It will then be used immediately to inseminate your mare. This method is the closest to natural cover and can optimise stallion fertility. In the run up to insemination, it is essential to perform ultrasound scans every 24 hours to make sure that insemination occurs 24 hours before ovulation.

 

Chilled semen

Semen is collected, processed and then refrigerated, enabling sperm to remain viable for up to 48 hours, allowing for stallions anywhere in the country and in Europe to be used. It is necessary for the mare owner to have good communication with the stallion owner at this time to ensure that the semen will be ready and posted correctly to the practice. Please find out how early semen will need ordering from the stallion to avoid any logistical problems. Similarly to fresh semen, it is important that the mare undergoes ultrasound scanning daily in the run up to insemination, making sure the process occurs 24 hours prior to ovulation.

 

Frozen semen

Frozen semen is often used by clients who wish for their mare to be bred using a competition stallion. Due to the busy competition schedule, often these stallions have semen frozen so that mare owners can purchase throughout the season. Once thawed, frozen semen has a much shorter lifespan than the alternatives above. Furthermore, some of the sperm may be damaged during the freezing/thawing process, meaning that there is a reduced percentage of progressively motile, normal sperm cells. There is a smaller window for successful fertilisation, which needs to be carried out as close to ovulation as possible. Due to this, ultrasound examinations are performed every 4-6 hours and all mares must be admitted to Towcester Equine Vets. The best candidates for this type of insemination are young, problem free mares.

Email reception@towcesterequine.co.uk or call 01327 811007 to chat to one of our breeding team.

 

Stallion Services

Here at Towcester Equine Vets, we can offer stallions the following service:

  • Breeding soundness examinations
  • Semen collection
  • Semen evaluation
  • Fresh/ chilled semen processing
  • Semen posting
  • Semen freezing
  • Dummy training

Breeding soundness examinations.

Before you decide to breed from your stallion, it is important that they undergo a health check. Our practice will carry out a breeding soundness examination, which includes a thorough examination of the sheath, penis, scrotum and testicles; depending on their temperament, stallions may need sedating for this.

Our vets will then take swabs from the sheath, urethra and urethra fossa to test for CEM; this has to be done after the 1st January in the breeding year. A blood sample will also be taken to test for Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) and Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA).

 

Semen collection

Our trained and trusted team are happy to collect semen from your stallion using our purpose-built stallion collection facility. We have a full secure room with padded collection dummy, artificial vagina and matted floors. We also have a teaser box at the head of the dummy to encourage stallions. Our handlers, vets and nurses are well experienced, ensuring that your stallion collects successfully and avoids injury. We offer experienced stallions to collect at our facility, as well as providing dummy training for inexperienced stallions. If you would like to chat to our breeding vet, call the clinic on 01327 811007.

 

Semen evaluation

Thorough semen evaluation is an important part of the collection process. The quality of the semen is assessed to make sure that all doses sent out to mare owners provide the best chance of fertilisation. Sperm concentration, motility and morphology are analysed and the appropriate extenders ued to preserve the quality of the sperm for as long as possible.

Sperm concentration is dependent on each stallion, however it is important to note that a high semen volume does not equate to a large number of sperm cells. Some stallions produce enough sperm in one ejaculate to give 20 insemination doses, other stallions may only produce a concentration large enough for 4 insemination doses.

When assessing the sperm motility, an estimate of the percentage of progressively motile sperm (those actively moving forwards) present in the sample is recorded. A figure greater than 50% is required for an acceptable chance of fertilization; if it is less than 50%, the semen sample is considered inappropriate for freezing. If your stallion is sub-fertile our team can use techniques to enhance their motility and longevity, such as centrifugation.

Our team will assess the sperm morphology as any abnormal shaped cells will affect fertilisation. Sperm cells are made up of four main parts: the head, mid-piece, tail and acrosome. Common defects of these parts are kinked tails and misshapen heads.

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