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Breedings to Deceased Stallions Offered Via Injection Technique
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December 9th, 2009

Breedings to Deceased Stallions Offered Via Injection Technique
Written by Cindy Reich
Courtesy of TheHorse.com

A reproductive technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a sperm cell is injected directly into an egg, has resulted in foals from many mares that were no longer able to produce. However, it might be equally as important in reviving valuable genetics from stallions that have been dead for decades.

The ability to freeze semen on stallions has been available for many decades. However, it is by no means an exact science. Unlike bull semen, which has quite consistent quality when frozen, the success of freezing stallions' semen is very dependent on the individual stallion. For reasons that are still not fully understood, many stallions do no freeze well, even if they have good fertility with chilled or raw semen.

Complicating the picture was the fact that many stallions were only collected for freezing semen when they were in their declining years, or suffering from a debilitating condition. Therefore, the sperm cells collected and frozen were not of the best quality. This compounded the problems in getting pregnancies with the frozen semen.

Regardless, over the past several decades, many owners have chosen to freeze their stallions' semen. If it froze well, they were ahead of the game. If the stallion did not freeze well, the semen was still often kept in the hope that the technology of the future would enable them to utilize the semen.

Scientists are still working on devising better freezing protocols, extenders, and antifreeze components to increase production results with frozen stallion semen. In the meantime, ICSI now provides those with frozen semen, even if poor quality, a very realistic opportunity to produce multiple pregnancies from a single straw of semen. Because only one sperm cell is needed for the sperm injection, it is not necessary to use multiple straws to try to achieve a single pregnancy. Furthermore, the sperm cell must only contain viable DNA. The motility post thaw is not a factor. By mechanically injecting the sperm cell into the egg, the necessity of having a highly motile sperm cell is bypassed.

Realizing the potential for accessing these rare genetics and the opportunity for breeders to create new dynasties of older and contemporary bloodlines, Equine Reproduction Innovations of Wellington, Colo., has created a "Legends" program for standing semen from deceased stallions via the use of ICSI.

Initial stallions enrolled in the program include the Arabian stallions:

  • *Aladdinn; U.S. National Champion Stallion 1979, 3rd leading sire of Arabians (still hale and hearty at the age of 34, but no longer breeding mares) ;
  • *Muscat; U.S. National Champion Stallion 1980;
  • *Nariadni, sire of significance--all owned by Taylor Ranch in Utah, and
  • Bey Shah; U.S. National Reserve Champion Stallion 1980 and leading sire of halter horses, owned by Shellbird Inc. of Colorado.
  • Khemosabi; U.S. National Champion Stallion 1973, owned by The Khemosabi Syndicate;
  • Brass; sire of numerous National Champions in halter, english pleasure, and park, owned by Cedar Ridge Arabians.

Other stallions, representing several breeds, will be announced in the coming weeks and months. ERI also handles semen for any stallion owner wishing to breed mares via ICSI, sexed semen, embryo transfer, or conventional artificial insemination.