Tuesday, December 15, 2020

If you like it--buy it!

Just this morning, minutes after speaking with a client who planned to purchase Totilas frozen semen next year, I received an email from the Schockemoehle Stud informing me of his passing following colic surgery. 

Once again, I advise breeders that if you really love a stallion but don't currently have a plan to breed to him--consider buying his semen anyway. Stallions become unavailable for a variety of reasons: death, infertility, a performance career, sale to a new owner with no interest in making semen and changing USDA regulations are some of the reasons why a stallion's frozen semen becomes unavailable. 

So if you have a dream of breeding to a stallion "some day," buy it and store it for the future. You never know when your dream will become unattainable because the semen is no longer available. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Research Tools
It's that time of year again when breeders are madly researching their breeding ideas, so I thought I'd pass along some of my favorite research tools. 

First of all, country-specific google sites can often lead to results not available on Google.com. 
Each country has its own google. For example:

Germany = google.de
Netherlands = google.nl
Denmark = google.dk
France = google.fr
Belgium = google.be
United Kingdom =  google.co.uk
Portugal = google.pt
Spain = google.es
Italy = google.it
And so on . . .

Use the google translation tool to translate the words stallion, mare, foal etc. into whatever language you are researching. Also use the English terms for the most results. 

HorseTelex.com is a useful site, where you can look up a stallion and also see his dam's produce. It's helpful to see the dam's produce in this rather sire-centric business. Here in North America we don't have the extensive background in mare families, that they do in Europe. More great features are the registration numbers, inbreeding coefficients and approvals also provided. 

Hengstregister.de/ is another great website; it lists the test results of every stallion tested in Germany. 

Hippomundo is another pedigree site which includes an up to date performance record of a stallion and the produce of his dam. 

YouTube.com YouTube is a fantastic resource for horse breeders, and one I'm sure most are already using. You can sometimes find videos not otherwise available by searching the country-specific google sites mentioned above. 

ClipMyHorse.tv is a pay site that features all important sport horse events worldwide in real time. Plus, they have an archive of events.

Thoroughbred bloodlines is a good source for researching Thoroughbreds. 

Equineline.com is another Thoroughbred pedigree research site. 

The Superior Equine Sires Conception Database was developed to give breeders access to frozen semen conception results on many stallions, both in Europe and North America. All data is user entered. Users can view reports, create reports and request stallions be added to the list. 

There is also a "Search" feature in the upper right corner of the Superior Equine Sires masthead, where you can search the website for name, breed, color, height etc. Just keep in mind that it will pull up stallions from the archive which are no longer available, so you must check the active roster to be sure a stallion is available. 

TheHorseMagazine.com is an excellent website which contains a wealth of historical articles on famous stallions, riders, competitions and more. 

Please let us know of other good research sites: info@superiorequinesires.com 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Motility versus Fertility

The most usual question for semen shoppers to ask is "what's the motility?" Unbelievebly enough, we often do not receive motility percentages from our suppliers, but must extrapolate from the number of straws per dose. For example, three straws per dose indicates approximately 50% motility and four straws per dose about 40% motility. When selling single straws, we do however, usually get a motility report. 
Breeders often rely on their veterinarian or technician for a motility count, and share information between themselves or via our database. But just take a look at our Conception Database (you must sign up to use it) to see how the reported motility of the same stallion can vary wildly. Our experience has been that even semen from the same collection can vary. It would seem that it's not an actual variation of the semen, but perhaps that it has been compromised by handling and thawing, or by a flawed assessment when looked at on a slide.
The most reliable assessment of semen motility is provided by CASA (computer assisted semen analysis).
And while good motility is never a bad thing and often bodes well, the far more important question is "what's his fertility rate?" We've seen stallions with 5-10% motility settle mares at a high rate and stallions with 75% motility that didn't work at all.
We built our Conception Database so breeders have access to important data to use in making informed breeding choices. So, if you haven't entered your results or you have searched the database, please do! And if you don't see the information you're looking for, call us. We often have information that is not entered in the database. The database information is only entered by breeders.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Three Best Practices for Success with Frozen Semen

Breed Post Ovulation Only

Inseminating within six hours from ovulation is the number one priority for success with frozen semen. The timed protocol may work in some instances, but why inseminate with expensive, no-guarantee frozen semen before the mare ovulates? Mares are known to regress follicles, which means your expensive semen is wasted. And what if the semen only lasts for six hours in the reproductive tract, and your mare ovulates at ten hours post insemination? This is why the veterinarians will put another dose in when she/he checks the mare again, regardless if the mare has ovulated or not.

The main reason veterinarians want to use the timed protocol, which calls for one dose to be inseminated before the mare ovulates and one dose after ovulation, is so they don't have to get up at night and check a mare. There is no reason to use two doses per cycle when one will do. If your vet uses nothing but the timed protocol, I suggest finding one who will inseminate post ovulation.

There are, however, reasons to use the timed protocol, such as when you have a mare or foal you don't want to ship to a breeding facility or you don't have the option of using the post-ov protocol.

I believe the most fertile frozen semen stallions are those whose semen lives the longest in the reproductive tract. I've seen frozen semen that is still alive on a slide after 12 hours, but most lives far less. With stallions that are less fertile, consider asking your vet or tech to shorten up the interval between checks, to inseminate closer to ovulation.

It can't be overstated, inseminating post ovulation is the single most important way to be successful with frozen semen.

Don't Breed on a Transitional Cycle

Even though mares get in foal at the end of a transitional cycle at the same rate as with any other cycle, the fact that transitional cycles can last up to 21 days means it can cost you a fortune in board and veterinary costs. Plus, the transitional cycle gives the mare a cleansing cycle, as nature intended, and gets her hormones working. After the transitional cycle she'll settle into a normal, regular cycle in most cases.

Don't Breed on Foal Heat

Your vet might tell you she/he no problem getting mares in foal on foal heat, which is true enough. But the more important fact is that there is only a 30 to 35% live foal rate from foal heat breedings. I bred on foal heat only once, to save money on very expensive board. The mare came home pregnant, but aborted at nine months. The placenta was horribly infected, as was the mare's uterus. The uterus needs time to cleanse and heal after foaling, that is the purpose of the foal heat. So give your mare's reproductive future a boost by waiting a couple weeks for the first "real" heat.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

New Schockemoehle Contracts for 2020

The Schockemoehle Stud contacted me last month about how the contract had worked for me last year. After discussing why I felt it was not favorable to North American clients, we came up with a new contract system for 2020. It's still a contract, but at least now you can purchase a single dose or choose the two-dose contract, which has some breeder benefit if you don't get a conception. 

The details are as follows:

--One dose, one contract for one mare, contract fulfilled when you get a conception or viable embryo transfer (from fresh or ICSI embryo) No discounts next season if you don't get a conception.

--Two doses, for one mare,as in 2020. If you get a conception and don´t use the second dose, the remaining dose to be as used as above with one contract or purchase another two dose contract and receive a 2nd dose to fulfill the 2nd contract. If you use two doses for one mare and no conception, a 50% discount this (if available) or next season, with another two doses. 

The contracts may be viewed on our website. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Internet is a Double-Edged Sword

We all use it, often many times per day. You can't even have a good old-fashioned argument anymore, without someone pulling out their cell phone to settle it almost immediately. Yet, rarely does anyone challenge the internet's authority.

With an online-based business, I use the internet more than many people. But when it comes to passing on information about stallions I try to only repeat firsthand information. Firstly, from the mouths or the websites of the stallion owners themselves. Secondly, from clients who have firsthand experience to relate. Passing on opinions from someone who heard it from someone who read it somewhere is not acceptable to me. Unfortunately, this happens a lot in this business.

My first example of this was years ago when I first started in the frozen semen business. Brentina, by Brentano II, was all the go, brilliantly winning Grand Prix events and Olympic medals. Yet no one would buy her sire's semen. It seems someone on a popular sport horse chat room opined that his semen was no good, because she had used it and didn't get a conception. The hue and cry was raised; it was shared all over the internet and it killed all interest in Brentano II. Eventually, I asked the assistant director of the Landgestuet Celle about it and mentioned the name of the woman who had declared him a dud. "Hmm," he said. "That doesn't make sense. She only bought one dose." One opinion, amplified, had effectively killed a marvelous stallion's reputation. When I finally persuaded someone to try using his semen, she got a conception, the first of many for a stallion with an excellent conception rate. I have had this situation come up several times through the years, with stallions being unfairly maligned. Recently I had a stallion criticized for having semen that didn't work by one breeder, only to have another get a conception with a single straw from the same collection.

Unfortunately, in the case of using new stallions, North American breeders are often the guinea pigs for newly offered semen, because the Europeans don't use it much. They generally don't even test it on a mare of their own (my dream) before they ship it. Most stallions end up being at least average conception-wise, but a few end up being basically non fertile (my nightmare). This is why I tell breeders using unproven stallions that all I can rely on is the reputation and honesty of the supplier and the fertility of the sire line to guess at a untried stallion's fertility. These situations illustrate why it's important to rely on firsthand information.

Stallion owners invest significant time, effort and money to provide semen for sale to the public, so it's really a crime to let unfounded rumors stand as truth. But, boy is it ever hard to convince some people otherwise when they've read it on the internet. This is the reason I built my Conception Database, http://www.superiorequinesires.com/cdb-home.php, which is completely user driven. The only time I have any input is when a stallion I know to have good fertility is unfairly disparaged. Then, I offer my input via the "Brokers Note" at the top of a stallion's page. If there's no information on a stallion, call me, as I often have information that has not been posted. I'll tell you what I know straight up: excellent, average, low or no conception or don't know.

Keep on reading and researching, but deal with trusted sources of information and try to base your breeding decisions on firsthand knowledge.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Learning the horse business

This time of year I speak with a lot of newcomers to breeding. Even though I tell them mostly the same things over and over again, I really don't mind. They often apologize for so many questions, but I tell them their questions are always welcome--and I mean it. Better questions before, than wishing you'd asked them later.
Even though there are equine courses taught at colleges and universities, horse breeding is largely self-taught or passed on by experienced breeder-mentors. Horse breeders are some of the most generous people with their time and expertise of any people I know. Many are continuing the practice of handing down their knowledge to the next generation, as it was handed down to them.
As a kid in southern California, back before all the old ranchos went down to development. (Yep, they paved paradise and, put up a parking lot.) I was lucky enough to live near several working horse ranches. And being a horse crazy kid, I propped on the top of many a corral fence watching the ranch hands, most of whom were Mexican, as they went about their business. That was my introduction to horse breeding.
Years later, when I had my own kids and they had playmates over at the house during breeding season, I'd pick up the stallion's chain shank and head for the barn to tease or breed mares. One of the kids would hear the chain rattle and say to their friends, "C'mon, you gotta see this." And a little trail of children would join the dogs following me to the barnyard. Like the old vaqueros who didn't shoo me away, I figured it was a good lesson in how babies are made. Nobody's parent ever called to complain.
When I went to the racetrack I first worked as a groom, learning the basics of horse care, including how to properly clean a stall, grooming and leg work, feeding, tacking and most importantly, assessing a horse's mental and physical condition and relaying important details to the trainer. Has the horse been digging in his stall? Might be sore or colicky, or bored. Did he pin his ears and go to the back of his stall when he saw you coming with the tack? Might be sore or sour, which is usually caused by being sore. Being a groom is one of the very best ways to learn the horse business from the ground up. They are the often unsung heroes of the horse industry. I love it when a top trainer hails their groom as the reason for their success.
When I was training racehorses myself, I never missed an opportunity to learn from other trainers. Even the "worst" trainer might have some nugget of advice that you can use. The old guys were especially willing to sit in the shed row on a hot summer afternoon and let me pick their brains. I learned so many tricks of the trade that way, and still have the little recipe book of liniments and cures that I wrote them down. When I once asked a prominent trainer the secret of his success in developing so many top class horses he had a one-word answer that I regard as the key to raising and training horses. "Patience," he said.