Mounting Issues - By Steve Montemarano

(Originally published in the November 27, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)  

 When a hyper-profit motive intersects with animal welfare, a contradiction results. With regard to Thoroughbred racehorses, this statement is amplified during breeding season. In the past, a stallion’s book was limited to the 40 or so shareholders. Today a popular stallion may breed 300 times during a season. Some are then sent overseas for additional work. This schedule may generate an impression that breeding is a callous and greedy practice. The industry must remain sensitive to this perception.

A technology that can help address changing market dynamics is artificial insemination (AI), yet its practice is not permitted by The Jockey Club. The rule states that to be eligible for registration a Thoroughbred foal must result from a stallion physically mounting a mare with “intromission” of his reproductive organ. A portion of the sperm may be collected and placed immediately in the broodmare being bred. This is called “reinforced breeding,” which sounds incredibly similar to AI.

Why is the “natural cover” rule in place? This practice was a way to guarantee parentage. Also, bringing mares to the stallion generates additional income because a mare might board at the farm. This rule appears to have merit—at least in a bygone era. The 1970s saw a total North American foal crop of 280,315. In the 1980s the number increased to 463,827 and in the 1990s stood at 375,297. Physically mounting mares was, mathematically speaking, more practical four decades ago. Interestingly, in modern times 125 stallions help produce more than 40% of the annual foal crop.

Some assert the TJC rule is a way to control the market. Keen breeders used to recognize that managing the supply of stallion progeny could stimulate demand and higher prices at auction. Hardboots harangue the rule as a way the “haves” kept the “have nots” out of the upper echelon of the breeding world. Whatever the reasons, the health and welfare of the horse must remain in focus.

In Kentucky about seven out of 10 mares bred will produce foals. Veterinary experts contend this ratio could improve with AI. For example, what happens when several mares are ready to breed on the same day and that exceeds the physical limit of a stallion? This scenario represents lost income for the stallion syndicate, increased re-breeding costs, and missed opportunity for the mare owner.

Optimizing stallion and mare productivity is economically provocative. Take cases where semen from less-fertile stallions could be improved and then utilized. Horses with physical issues are excellent candidates, too. The rigors of racing, breeding, and disease cause handicaps that hamper efficient mounting. Wouldn’t it seem logical and ethical to help these horses via AI technique? The semen from one AI collection could provide three or four individual inseminations. Cutting a stallion’s workload by two-thirds would provide relief.

There are famous “shy” breeding stallions and AI could help promote their genetics. Lest we forget that aged mares with valuable pedigrees, physical issues, and breeding shed phobias may also be assisted. AI is a tool to help manage stress and promote a positive experience. These are modern-day cases where reproduction and technology create opportunity.

Recently contagious equine metritis (a sexually-transmitted disease) has spread in the United States. To the credit of the Thoroughbred industry, no cases have been reported. However, what if a mare or top stallion were infected? This would equate to a substantial economic and emotional loss. AI semen can be extended in special solution with antibiotic. This would virtually eliminate disease. Aside from STDs, the threats of equine influenza, strangles, and herpes virus are everyday concerns as scores of outside mares come into contact with stallions. With AI, the farm owner could require the mare be on the premises yet breed in a quarantined setting without direct stallion contact. While this would make Federico Tesio cringe, it creates a safe zone between the transient horses and the resident herd. Biosecurity became front-page news when influenza outbreaks occurred in Australia and Japan. This was probably initiated by foreign stock and biosecurity lapses.

Modern DNA typing would assure foal owners they got what they paid for. TJC could rest easy that AI registrations reflect reality, too. Overall, the benefits of AI technology, and supporting regulations, are worth further evaluation. Extending the longevity of breeding stock and increasing conception rates boost the bottom line. More importantly, AI will positively influence the health and well-being of the horses and their caretakers.

 

Learn more about AI from our sister publication The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Overview of AI by Les Sellnow

A listing of several articles and information on AI.

The December 2010 issue of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care has a special Breeding Section. This section does cover Artificial Insimenation. We do sell individual copies of the magazine, and the December 2010 issue will be available soon.

46 Comments

Leave a Comment:

milk n honey

ABS,a company dealing with AI in cattle did some work back in the '70s on AI in horses. At the facilities in Deforest, WI they had an Arab and a AQHA stallion. They had real good results with collecting, freezing,storing semen. The resistance came from the breed organizations and the owners themselves who seemed to think that AI would somehow diminish the value of their animals. The project was discontinued.Semen doesn't have to be "cut like in the cattle business. Can still be marketed for astronomical sums as the market will allow. Does reduce biosecurity risks.and also those plain old accidents that happen any time you work with and move animals. Especially ones worth millions of dollars!

23 Nov 2010 10:28 AM
duchess

Not to mention the benefits of being able to impregnate mares with the semen from overseas stallions without having to subject the mare (or the stallion for that matter) to the rigors of being shipped. You could easily introduce foreign sire lines and increase the genetic diversity of one country's breeding program.

Or the benefits of starting a semen bank which could be an invaluable means of preserving genetic diversity within the breed in this era of heavy line/inbreeding - not to mention preserving the semen of great sires for future study and possible use.

23 Nov 2010 11:03 AM
Golden Gate

I find some of your logic flawed in promoting AI

You wrote "Horses with physical issues are excellent candidates, too. The rigors of racing, breeding, and disease cause handicaps that hamper efficient mounting."

Why would anyone want to encourage an increase the number of mares bred to an unsound stallion?

We should be striving to breed in more soundness into our tb's. Also when mares are sent to stallions the stallion manager gets to record what physical condition the mare was in when she arrived for breeding..notes are kept and there is quality control.

I think live cover should be kept in place even though it is more expensive for the mare owner (I own a number of mares but no stallion)Yes I need to count my money and save more to send to a quality satallion but it alos helps me meet other people in the industry.

Part of the beauty of the thoroughbred industry is that one can still attach faces to peoples names. Networking draws us together.

23 Nov 2010 11:43 AM
Freshink

As an AQHA breeder I strongly disagree with the use of AI. It has destroyed the Quater Horse show market with a flood of horses and not enough buyers. A stud that used to cover 35 mares now produces 135 and that is 100 too many. TJC should only allow it for use with imfirmed studs, and then limit that book to his previous years production with live cover. That way it couild not be abused due to the greed of the connections.

23 Nov 2010 12:04 PM
Susan from VA

As one who has personally performed AI in another breed of horse, I agree that this method is safer for the participants, both equine and human, and is useful in individuals with fertility issues.  As for the comment that it would result in a flood of offspring from only a few studs and a resulting reduction in genetic diversity, all the Jockey Club would have to do is limit the number of progeny from each sire that could be registered in a single year.  You could use the semen all you want to breed warmbloods or thoroughbreds for non-racing purposes, but if you want to race, the horse obviously needs registration with the JC.  Unfortunately, too many people stand to lose jobs/income if the quaint live cover rule is ended.

23 Nov 2010 1:03 PM
Cyd

No AI, or they will hundred of unwanted horses going to slaughter in the end it is too easy to overbreed with AI.

23 Nov 2010 1:04 PM
Jeff Reichert

I think AI is short sighted. It would mean fewer stallions fathering more offspring. However, longterm health and soundness demands genetic diversity. the natural cover rule places some limits on the amount of offspring any one stallion can father.

23 Nov 2010 1:16 PM
Liz Tobey

The Thoroughbred industry really needs to embrace AI. It is not fair to be shuttling stallions across the globe and making them do double-duty, and it is also not a great idea to be shipping mares with young foals all over the place to be bred.

There also should be a limit to the number of registered foals that a stallion can sire in each hemisphere's breeding season.  This would help control the population of unwanted horses and would also help keep the market from being flooded.

23 Nov 2010 1:43 PM
AliciaMcQ

In the case of CEM, much of the reason it was so wide spread was because of AI. Because those that were infected were having their semen shipped far and wide. The theory, as I learned, was that someone along the line didn't thoroughly disinfect something, more than likely an AV. Therefore every stud that used it was infected, it got into the semen and every mare who was a recipient had a high risk of getting it.

Yes, AI will greatly improve conception rates....however, now when the market is so difficult to sell anyway, higher conception/more foals isn't going to be the greatest help. It may decrease stud fees so that those mare owners are able to improve their stock, but then there are going to be even less stallions that are used. Dairy has this problem: there are the very, very few top notch bulls and so many cows. Which leads to problems of inbreeding.

Physical issues can be made worse actually. In the wild, mares walk off after they're bred. By using a phantom to collect stallions develop hock issues, very quickly, because they have to be backed off of it; where I went to school,  the studs had to get a shot of banamine before they were even brought from the stud barn, for live or collection. And they won't necessarily be mounting any few less times...not all mare owners are going to sync their mares exactly, it's not a perfect science and each individual cycles differently. So they'll have to get several shipments, not all of which will be collected from one dose; and after semen is processed, the forward motility decreases quickly, especially after 24 or 48 hours. Mare owners are going to have to either pay a vet or certify their manager in AI, stallion owners will have to do the same. Collecting isn't difficult, but preparing for shipping takes practice. And for small time breeders, who after initial costs, AI is supposed to help the most, it's going to be a costly startup, most of which can't afford it now.

And stallion owners will have to balance between cash and keeping the percentages of runners/winners/etc high.

AI is a fantastic technology, and it's done wonders for animal breeding and genetics. However, we tend to not use it responsibly on a commercial level.

23 Nov 2010 1:49 PM
JUNIOR GATORS RACING

I PREFER LIVE COVER, AND THINKS WE SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER A BOOK LIMIT.  THE MARKET, AND THE BREED IN GENERAL CAN'T HAVE AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF ONE SIRE LINE.  JUST THINK IF SOME OF THE MORE PROLIFIC STALLIONS OF SAY THE PAST 20 YEARS COULD STILL BE PRODUCING FOALS FROM THE GRAVE!  WE'D STILL HAVE SLEW'S, MR PS, AND ND AT THE YEARLING SALES.

23 Nov 2010 2:56 PM
Susan from VA

If hock issues are a concern, the stallion can be taught to ground collect.  The start up costs are not that high for the stallion end, and really you just need a brain and a little bit of training to handle either the stallion or the mare end of AI.

23 Nov 2010 3:04 PM
Elizabeth

I have put much thought into the "Natural Cover" vs. AI debate over the past year or so. There are pros and cons. He are my thoughts.

Natural Cover can be dangerous for mare, stallion, handler and even the foal. The mare could kick the stallion or run over the handler. The stallion could get a little to excited and take out his handler, some stallions are particularly rough, who I work with has a habit of always giving a little bute to the mare after being covered. If you have a foal that gets particularly upset about not being with momma it can be hard for the foals handler to keep the baby from hurting themselves in an attempt to get back to mom. Much of this can be prevented with proper management and handling.

Good things for Natural Cover, it allows the stallion owner to control which mares are bred (to ensure they are getting the best available mares) and to control how many are bred, although many of the high end stallions are being overbred as it is. The overbreeding is quite disturbing to me as it lowers the value of the foal, isn't this business 101?

Pros for AI, safer for all involved. Lowers the cost of board and transportation to mare owners. Stallions don't have to work as hard. Allows horses with mental or physical problems to breed. Although some of the physical problems out there should be a major turn off for breeders, we need more sound horses. It is the idea of "Survival of the Fittest".

Cons for AI. Stallion owners can not guarentee the semen is given to the correct mare if at another location. This is a piece of control that I don't see the stallion owners giving up. This also paves for the way for even more overbreeding.

In Conclussion, if regulated correctly with strick rules from the Jockey Club, it could be a step forward especially in the welfare department. The major thing that needs to be regulated is the number of foals per stallion that may be registered per year

23 Nov 2010 3:12 PM
Candice

I think that not allowing AI is  affecting the non-racing TB performance horse market.  How many off-track racers do we hear about who become successful in jumping or cross-country?  Breeders of those horses frequently use AI with no ill effects, as well as embryo transfer, which allows the horse to continue its performance career. Those who would tap into the bloodlines of TBs are unable to do so and still get the valuable registration papers if they use AI. Now, they must cross with other sporthorse breeds instead of perpetuating the pure TB line.

23 Nov 2010 3:41 PM
jeffrey

there are too many TB's as is. Once a mare is to weak to be mounted does she really need to have a foal. IMO AI is more greedy then over breeding. its too unnatural. with AI wed end up having foals from sires who died 20 years ago, therefor lessening the chance for a new sire to get as many chances. this would in turn lessen the value of high end colts at the sale rings. selling breeding rights is one thing but selling sperm is way different. what happened to AGRICULTURE?

23 Nov 2010 4:23 PM
Rachel

Heck, why not just harvest all of Zenyatta's eggs, fertilize them all with AP Indy and then plant them in "host" mares...like the Quarter horse world does...who needs any others in the gene pool if we can do this?

Then, we'll just clone 'em after the fertilized embryos run out.

Problem solved.

23 Nov 2010 4:51 PM
milk n honey

Let's clear up a few misconceptions about AI.The use of AI actually helps to limit or eliminate the spread of disease. The owners of the stallions can control how the semen is distributed and probably would not be an "open market" item like dairy and beef cattle semen are. If you take a look at cattle genetics and the trait information that has been gleaned after the widespread use of AI, it's mind-boggling to think what that kind of information could do to the racing and breeding industry. Type and trait info is available on all cattle sires in AI so you aren't breeding "by guess and by golly" Start looking at what AI has done for other areas of livestock agriculture and you will be amazed by the genetic gains that can be made without sacrificing animal welfare, human safety and in the end will, hopefully, enhance the sport of horse-racing.  

23 Nov 2010 5:47 PM
LindaE

Occasionally, a stud prospect has an injury that makes live cover difficult, if not impossible.  For instance, Nureyev and Boitron.  Injuries do not necessariy equal genetic unsoundness.  I no longer breed TBs, but I remember the days when I had to book a mare the minute she showed any interest in the teaser...because so many mares go to the same stallion, it is sometimes impossible to get the appointment your mare needs.  

23 Nov 2010 6:28 PM
Mrglassoniongirl

I find it would be very confusing and unnatural. Especially the possibility of a long dead stallion siring offspring, though it would be interesting.

Imagine if they hadfroze Man O War or Eclipse, heck even Secretariat`s seman and had it insiminated into a young mare. Doesn`t seem right....

23 Nov 2010 7:33 PM
james f webb

Arguments for or against AI can be made by anyone. Why don't the folks at the Jockey Club recognize the anti-AI rule is a violation of federal restraint of trade laws?  Restricting the size of a stallion's book also is a violation of Federal law. The expense of breeding a marketable thoroughbred has put many small breeders out of business. Forcing them to continue paying unnecessary vanning bills and board bills when they're almost bellyup doesn't seem like sanity. Many years ago the Jockey Club released a statement explaining it's anti-AI stand. The statement stressed that a natural cover was necessary to preserve  "vigor" transmitted by a natural cover. This is lunacy and madness. The statement was published by The Bloodhorse and  appropriately enough, printed in Old English typeface . . . Flat World Society anyone? Anyone at all?

23 Nov 2010 7:54 PM
conni richmond

At the recent Profesional Bull Riding World Champpionships in Las Vegas, 3 of the top 15 bulls in the Short Go ( Championship Round) were CLONES to a great old bull, Panhandle Slim. It amazed me to know end that of all the championship quality bulls out there, those clones qualified for the top 15 bulls in the WORLD. The American Bucking Bull Industry keeps DNA records, does embreyo transplants and flushes a clutch of eggs from a cow to implant into several surregates. My take from comments made is that there is NO genetic difference in the clones, same DNA. Scary, is it not? Imagine 3 Barbaro's in the KY Derby, which had a larger field than the fifteen bulls in that short round.

23 Nov 2010 8:54 PM
charlie

When the breed association limits the number of foals that may be registered to a stallion, the next thing that happens is they are facing restrain of trade lawsuits.  This is also the reason the AQHA will now register multiple foals in a year to a mare, through embryo transfer.  Discontinuing the natural cover rule opens all kinds of cans of worms.

23 Nov 2010 10:16 PM
Lorri S

AI is open to abuse by the illegal fraternity that seem to be attached to any sport where money is to be made from gambling. Do we really want to have Danehill, Secretariat etc, siring from the grave? Here we have Blame, exceptionally well bred and a probable winner of HOY going to stud for a mere $3500. He wouldn't get a look in if the real champs were still breeding via frozen sperm.

Would we also have an over abundance of foals. Who would be in charge of regulating this. The horse racing hierarchy that's in place now have trouble handling anything now. Don't give them that responsibility to stuff up also.

In a perfect world AI would be the best way to go. Best for the horses, for owners and so ultimately for the fans. But in case you haven't noticed, this is far from a perfect world.

23 Nov 2010 10:19 PM
Donut Jimmy

If AI is permitted, stallions books will be unlimited. It is an absolute point of law that to place any arbitrary restriction on book size would constitute RESTRAINT OF TRADE and is absolutely, without question, illegal.

The AQHA used to restrict the number of foals registerable to any mare in a given year to one. You could do as many embryo transfers as you liked, but they would only register a single foal from those produced. They were sued and lost based on the principle of restraint of trade. Every other horse registry in the country immediately dropped any restrictions they may have had on numbers of ET foals, because the precedent insured they would be sued and would lose. Limiting number of foals produced by AI would suffer the same fate if challenged in court.

However, it is my opinion, that the farms have gotten so good at maximizing book size with natural cover, that allowing AI would not have as big an impact on this as some suppose.

Keep in mind there are several issues involved.

1) Artificial insemination as an option.

2) Transportation of semen off premises as an option. (When Standarbreds originally allowed AI it was restricted to on premise use only, both mare and stallion had to be on the farm at the same time. They later dropped this restriction.)

3) Use of frozen semen as an option.

4) Use of stored frozen semen as an option.

There are many good and bad consequences of the use of AI. It is important to distinguish what the options really are.

DJ

23 Nov 2010 11:37 PM
Terry

"Take cases where semen from less-fertile stallions could be improved and then utilized." Bad idea. This increases the risk of reduced fertility in the next generation.

"There are famous “shy” breeding stallions and AI could help promote their genetics." Again, bad idea. This can be passed on as well.

In both cases, you are promoting bad genetics, not just the good genes.

There are good reasons for using AI, but these aren't among them!

24 Nov 2010 12:43 AM
Daryl Tuttle

I think that AI would be great. I have been breeding for 6 years and have to ship to and from KY and FL and it is expensive the first go round, but if the mare slips, then she usually doens't get a second chance that year due to our limits.

Also, on stallion soundness, yes there are plenty of times when a great stallion gets injured and it is naive for the people to say that that horse should not be genetically perpetuated.

I am going to stand Smart Guy this year who showed a lot of class on the track and got injured. He comes from a lineage known for soundness and I will breed him BUT he is hurt from a racing injury and I will worry everytime I breed him. If you have ever handled breeding stallions, you learn quickly to be concerned about the mare's actions. They kick and try to jump out of the way, and one wrong move could permanently debilitate your stallion. I would love to see a day with AI approved.

24 Nov 2010 7:33 AM
Wonder?

I think articicial insemination could be a positive step in eliminating the slaughter of stallions in some countries, when they no longer cover the number of mares desired!!!!!  We have at least two in one country possibly awaiting their demise because of this.........

24 Nov 2010 8:15 AM
Diane

We have too much supply now.  at least, under the current rules, you have to make logistical choices.  this is nuts

24 Nov 2010 8:15 AM
Larry Ensor

This argument has come up many,many times over the years.  Same reasons for and the same reasons against.

More safe for the stallion and the mare.  On face value yes. But I have seen very few safety issues even with the toughest stallion or reluctant mares when managed by an experienced professional team.

Not having to stress out the mare and foal by being shipped.  I am sure there is a bit of stress the first time but by in large they could care less. And it is a good schooling lesson for the foal.  I find it more stressful for the owner/shipper then the horses.

Rules and regs set by the Jockey Club would eliminate all concerns of over breeding to one stallion, breeding to dead stallions, etc..

IMO the main reasons A.I. will not be embraced in the near future are the same now as in the past. Money and jobs as was pointed out by another poster. There is a lot of money invested in farms around the Lexington area along with a lot of jobs not to mention vets.  Most of which would no longer be necessary.  Something that would not be over looked by KY politicians.  But it would be a tremendous savings for mare owners. Lower vet costs, shipping, no outside board fees for those of us who own a farm etc..   Lower or eliminate repeat covers, late foals and missed years.  It is a win win for mare owners but not for Kentucky stallion and farm owners.

24 Nov 2010 10:20 AM
Pedigree Ann

If the US unilaterally adopted AI for Thoroughbreds, our export market would dry up. Why? Because no other racing country permits AI products to be registered as TBs. Correction. Russia tried it and found their AI horses rejected by other authorities. Every stud book in the world would have to agree to allow AI or none can, as it would be cutting the throat of its home country's breeding industry. Coolmore and the sheiks aren't going to pay big bucks for animals they can't stand or breed from in Ireland or Britain as TBs.

You want AI in the US? Start working on Wetherbys, the French Jockey Club, etc.

24 Nov 2010 10:22 AM
pNewmarket

Your article has failed to mention that the issue of AI is NOT for the US Jockey Club to decide.

AI is banned by the INTERNATIONAL Stud Book Committee and any one country that breaks this rule will be thrown out of the organisation.  

This would mean, for example, that US bred horses would not be allowed to race outside of the US (as they would not be recognised as true Thoroughbreds) and therefore the sales market would collapse.  

No one from outside the US would want to buy US bred horses and no international horses would be sent to race in the US as the races would be of no value.

As has already been mentioned by a previous poster, the outbreak of CEM that you cite was actually spread by the use of AI!

A study was carried out into the use of AI by Arrowfield Stud in Australia, it makes for very interesting reading: www.stallions.com.au/.../arrowfield-study-dispels-ai-benefits

AI cannot/will not be allowed until every major racing nation in the world agrees to its use.

24 Nov 2010 11:02 AM
Golden Gate

It will be intersting just for curosity sake to run a poll to see what percentage of Blood Horse online readers support or don't support the use of a.i.

As one person said their stallion is sound but had a major physical injury (not genetics related)that makes him not able to mount well.

I understand the one commenter's readers logic stating that a stallion hurt through accident (not genetic)should be allowed use of a.i. but as another reader wrote this opens up lawsuits if the JC trys to limit the amount of mares serviced through a.i.

I think the live cover rule should be left in place. We do not need the "flavor of the year stallion" to have 100,00's of offspring and others not to have very few if any. All of these offspring hitting the market at one time would cause the sales to drop as supply would exceed demand. With the way it is now only a certain number are available from any one stallion and at the sales the best of these are vied for.

Genetic diversity needs to be maintained. Also using a.i. would really effect the state bred stallion prospects. As it is now each state tries to improve their own stallions to keep mares coming to them. If everything were easy to obtain I believ any of the state stallions would be less utilized and the incentive to maintain and upgrade quality stallions would be reduced except in those cases where they already had the great stallions.

24 Nov 2010 11:02 AM
DRFAGER01

If this practice ever becomes the law of the land, and is governed fairly to all parties involved. preserving the likes of man o war, secretariats ,bold ruler, seattle slew, or ap indy would not only be a gain for the thoroughbred world. It would be a gain of Exta ordinary strides for an Industry that seem to only accept the Fashionably bred Stallions of the day. I am more for preservation of the Greats. This would Eventully lead to better research on soundness and performance Issues. The sound of having a Mr p at the sale in 2010 or a Seattle Slew in 2011 only sounds taboo now until it becomes the norm. the message from this is fair. lets preserve our Sport with better Management of the Issues. lets open our minds to try things beyond the old and Traditional Bible that the World of Thoroughbred racing seem to Breathe by.

24 Nov 2010 11:13 AM
AliciaMcQ

Just to clear one thing up....there wouldn't be much siring from the grave, so-to-speak. Frozen semen is even more hit-or-miss than live cover. In order for it to take, a mare has to be ultrasounded every few hours, around the clock, and receive semen within a small window around the estimated time of ovulation.

And no, AI is not difficult to learn, but if  you want to do it well, and any breeder that wants a good reputation will....you need training. And more than just a day's workshop. Plus there is the whole issue of sanitizing and prepping equipment correctly. Because of the fact that semen is so sensitive to every environmental change (temp, light, air, etc) prepping it for shipping takes the most training. I've done it quite a few times and I still worry about getting it wrong.

24 Nov 2010 12:02 PM
Paul

Like any big change this is not as black and white as it seems. There are many pros and cons on both sides.

But, this would change even the minute staticstics we all study as breed students. Leading sires could be around for many decades after their deaths.

Basically, I see more positives than negatives although I would like to see a limit on foals per sire per year regardless of live mounting or AI.

24 Nov 2010 12:06 PM
JT

The ONLY way AI should be allowed is with a limit to the number of mares the stallion is allowed to breed to... I PROMISE to anyone of you who think otherwise..this will be a Death Nail to the industry if there isn't a strict limit.

24 Nov 2010 12:52 PM
will

AI being appoved by the royal families that run the Jockey Club you must be joking. They have more important things to do, like making plans to attend the royal wedding.

24 Nov 2010 1:02 PM
Convene

I can see pros and cons for AI. One thing that does bother me is that, with the serious problem of "unwanted horses" (how I hate that idea - that any horse could be unwanted!), without the limitations nature provides for a stallion's reasonable productive covers, we could find even larger foal crops - not all of which would be "wanted" throughout life. Perhaps a ceiling would have to be imposed on the number of foals who could be registered to discourage that possibility. For good stallions whose physical performance in the breeding shed is poor, AI would help ensure our quality bloodlines continue and flourish. Otherwise I'm not sure it would be a good idea.

24 Nov 2010 8:36 PM
Donut Jimmy

Standardbreds have the Breeders Crown. If you are interested in the likely effects of allowing AI in Thoroughbreds, look at what AI has done for Standardbreds.

The 2010 Triple Crown had 366 nominees. They were sired by 154 different stallions. 85 stallions had a single nominee. The top two stallions had ten each.

There were 400 nominees for the two year old trotting divisions of the 2010 Breeders Crown. They were sired by 34 different stallions. Seven stallions were represented by a single nominee. The top stallion alone, had 50 nominated offspring. Ten stallions were responsible for 283 or over 70% of all nominees.

(There was a bit more diversity amongst the pacers.)

How many people think this is a good idea?

25 Nov 2010 12:52 AM
Donut Jimmy

Oops, pacers not much better 475 nominees by 33 stallions, and the most by one horse was 51 nominees.

25 Nov 2010 1:21 AM
sherpa

pNewmarket - I know very little about the AI debate and so didn't have an informed "opinion" (although my default position is always "when in doubt, go with Nature"). However, the plain fact, as you stated, that American TBs conceived via AI wouldn't be accepted as 'legitimate' by the rest of the world, would make any pro-AI argument, moot. Irrelevant.

Thanks, too, for the Arrowfield/AUS article link.  As the study came from a breeder who would seem to have much to gain from the practice of AI, yet with findings clearly in opposition to it, I would hope that it will be taken very seriously.  

Beyond that, I love finding new websites with interesting links ... and say, what about that Duforth!? a seriously gorgeous fellow with an amazing pedigree! :-)

25 Nov 2010 8:19 PM
AngelaFromAbilene

I am so tired of hearing about how much money AI would save mare owners!  If you are worried about the cost of shipping a mare to be bred, perhaps you do not need to be in the business.  Breeding a mare and raising a colt is a costly endeavor and perhaps not for everyone.

I am absolutely, 100% against AI and ET.  I have watched what has happened with the AQHA and it is disgusting.  If an animal cannot stand for live-cover, it does not need to reproduce itself, be it mare or stallion.  Survival of the fittest.  Preserving the integrity of the breed and producing a better animal should be at the forefront of every breeders mind...not the almighty dollar.

(I maintain these thoughts as I try and find a QH stallion with the right characteristics to LIVE COVER 2 mares in February/March.  Frustrating indeed!)

26 Nov 2010 7:12 AM
Lisa Schwartz

If the contention is “safety first” there should be very little argument against AI.  Every handler of a mare or stallion knows the risks of the live cover breeding shed.  The control of every aspect is heightened by the use of AI.  It seems that many of the posts to this article assume that AI and semen transport are the same issue and I would contend that they are not.

The framing of the rules for the use of AI by The Jockey Club and the consideration of the economic implications must go hand in hand.  It’s a many faceted issue that if cut carefully and with great precision can be a shining gem for the industry.  To provide a safer breeding shed, with practices that enhance the health and well being of our blood stock and the handlers is without a doubt a benefit to all that TJC should consider fully.

26 Nov 2010 6:27 PM
Four Card

The article talks about horse and handler safety. That is important. Racing and breeding should be about the horse.

Perhaps a stallion owner(s) could put a disciplined limit AI breedings. If supply/demand is a concern. At least make AI an option.

As for breeding stallions that are shy or less fertile - why not if they have other redeeming characteristics? Should Kantharos not be bred since he broke down after two starts? Would AI help his sire Lion Heart with gargantuan breeding efforts? A current top KY stallion is a ridgling should he not be bred?Another stallion was retired this year because vertabra issues made it difficult to breed. With AI could be made useful, maybe.

I would not be critical of Standardbred horses because we are all in the same industry. If you look at the soundness and race time progress that Standardbreds have made that is an awesome achievement. They use AI technique...

If we went back to smaller books that would promote genetic diversity and safety. however what would happen to the $50M stallion? A very few top prospects would probably be worth less. Is that what our industry is about - protecting the wealthy few?

26 Nov 2010 6:30 PM
predict

I for one believe that AI has its good points and bad. It would of course be changing a long tradition in the industry, and the most difficult thing to overcome is an industry built on tradition. I don't believe the current rules are without fault, or else we wouldn't see the continuing decline of the thoroughbred's quality that we see in the breed's sturdiness today. This is not to say that AI would help or possibly hinder this result, but we really wouldn't know until a couple of decades past using AI. It would be amazing to actually see what the allowing of AI would bring about in the breed and also in the industry.

In this world we live in today I could envision an AI system that might work something like Netflix's in the movie industry. One could simply become a member and have any request for semen desired shipped to them "overnight". Doesn't sound so great to some I'm sure, but this probably sounds great to others.

Other changes might be in the willingness of owners to let the horses race longer, instead of rushing them off to the breeder shed at that first big win the horse achieves, especially if that horse now has to compete with a history's worth of good stallions available in the "semen in storage catalog".

It's too bad no one asks the horse what they want.

27 Nov 2010 11:06 PM
Kathy Kranz

Please, please, keep something natural and pure!  Flush the dollar signs.  I hope TJC never gives permission for AI.  If a stallion can no longer mount the mare, pension him.  If the mare can no longer support the stallion, pension her.  She probably has no business going through another 11-month gestation and delivery, anyway!  Let the young, i.e., untried, stallions and mares begin to make their own marks in the breed.

28 Nov 2010 7:35 PM
Susan from VA

To all posters that believe that permitting AI would enable breeding to deceased stallions or that frozen semen could be banked for whatever reason, I want to point out that not all stallions freeze well.  In fact, with some stallions, the semen seems to thaw well and result in large numbers of forwardly-motile sperm, yet this semen is totally incapable of getting any mare pregnant.  This would probably result in most AI being performed with fresh chilled semen, because frozen semen would be a waste of money in many cases.

29 Nov 2010 11:42 AM

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