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Natural mating Versus artificial insemination (AI)?

Artificial Insemination (AI) involves the collection, evaluation and dilution of a stallions semen. A calculated dose of the semen can then be chilled and transported to the mare. Once extended and chilled some semen can be stored for 72 hours in specialised cool shipping containers, making transport from places like Germany possible for some stallions.

However the majority if stallions semen will not last for more than 48 hours after collection, but not all stallions are the same and the sooner you can get the semen to the mare the better. Once the semen reaches the mare she should be inseminated straight away as the semen lasts longer inside the mare than in a container.

Due to the timing that is required it is critical to know exactly what stage of the cycle your mare is at. This is where us vets come into play, and with the use of an ultrasound machine we can quite accurately predict the time of ovulation and therefore instruct you when to order the semen form the stallion.

The advantagesof AI include:

  • The desired stallion may be a great distance away saving time and money travelling the mare back and forth.
  • Greater effective use of the stallion- the collected semen can be split into several doses meaning multiples mares can be bred from the one ejaculation.
  • When the semen is analysed its quality is also assessed, any stallions with fertility problems are therefore identified and a different stallion may be used instead.
  • Reduced risk of injury to the mare from insertion of the stallion’s penis or him biting her.
  • Reduced risk to the handlers.
  • Reduced risk of injury to the stallion from being kicked by a mare potentially being put out of use.
  • Mares would not need to visit the stud, therefore avoiding contact between visiting mares and potential disease transmission.
  • Insemination can be timed more easily as you don’t have to wait for the stallion to have a time slot available.
  • Frozen semen can be stored almost indefinitely in liquid nitrogen tanks.
  • Greater control of disease as there is no physical contact between the stallion and the mare. Eg. The Contagious Equine Metritis epidemic in 1977 affected many Newmarket studs as they have natural matings.

The disadvantages of AI include:

  • Chilled and frozen semen does not last as long as fresh semen and therefore the insemination must be carefully timed. This requires a high level of veterinary input and therefore expense.
  • Pregnancy rates are generally lower with frozen semen than with fresh or chilled semen. Frozen semen is therefore not advisable for use on older mares or those with suspect fertility.
  • Semen can be diluted so one stallion could father thousands of foals in a season, thus making hundreds of stallions redundant and putting most studs out of business. There is also a genetic argument against overuse of stallions.
  • There is a slight risk that a mare may unwittingly be inseminated with the wrong semen, therefore to ensure that the mare was in foal to the right stallion, all resulting foals would need to be blood- typed.
  • Foals by A. I. are prohibited in the Wetherby's studbook, i.e. cannot be used in thoroughbreds for racing purposes.




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Loch Leven Equine Practice
Beauford Paddock
Kinross KY13 0LS
Tel: 01577 841010