Believe it or not, it’s already time to begin thinking about next year’s breeding season. Perhaps you are looking to stand a new stallion or add a young one to your roster. Whether you plan to breed your stallion to five mares or 50, it is important to track his reproductive success so that you can quickly identify and address any problems that might arise. Proper record keeping and good management practices will help ensure the breeding success of your stallion.
“If the pregnancy rates are low, then a breeding soundness exam should be conducted...”
Michelle Morgan, who owns Mandolynn Hill Farm in Aubrey, Texas, feels that the key ingredient in maintaining fertility is keeping the stallion happy. She stands seven purebred Arabian stallions at her facility and five reside there year round. They do not do any live cover at the farm. Rather, all the horses are collected for artificial insemination. Her stallions are housed together in the same barn and receive daily turnout from 7:30 a.m to 3:00 p.m. “Turning a horse out allows him to be a horse,” she says. She also knows that nutrition plays a critical role and feels the stallion should go into breeding season a little heavier than normal. Poor body condition due to improper nutrition has a detrimental effect on semen quality. However, to get a more accurate reading once the body condition improves, you should wait 60 days before evaluating the semen.
Another area Morgan feels strongly about is the stallion’s routine and handler. When the horse is brought in to tease or breed, the handler has to be in control, but he shouldn’t be abusive. He really has to know what he’s doing and let the stallion express himself. Decreased libido has been seen due to improper handling or abuse. “I usually keep one person handling the horse when he breeds. When that person goes to get him, he (the stallion) knows what’s happening,” she says.
Maintaining breeding records is another important step. “If we have a stallion and he’s breeding really well and then not, we can go back and follow what he’s done,” Morgan says. This can be accomplished by simply hand writing them in a notebook to tracking them on a computer that then performs statistical analysis on the results. It makes little difference what method you use as long as it is done consistently. Morgan keeps a list of each mare’s name, owner, date bred, status of the mare (foaling barren, or maiden) and due date.
Maintaining Breeding Efficiency
Breeding efficiency is important to properly manage both your time and your stallion’s efforts. The three statistics that evaluate efficiency are cycles per pregnancy (less than two), first cycle pregnancy rate (65-70%) and pregnancy rate per cycle (60-65%). If the numbers are higher than that, chances are you’re spending more money and your stallion is working harder without good results.
After you’ve examined your breeding records, if the pregnancy rates are low, then a breeding soundness exam should be conducted. The typical breeding soundness exam performed by a veterinarian consists of completing his reproductive and health history, performing a physical examination, examining external and internal reproductive organs and collecting and evaluating semen.