Entries in Breeding Shed Hang Ups (1)

Thursday
Feb252010

MANAGING STALLIONS PART 2

summerhills solskjaer

Summerhill's Solskjaer
(Photo : Heather Maclatchy)

(Please click above to enlarge...)

AN INSIGHT INTO BREEDING

BREEDING PREPARATION

Approximately two months before the start of the breeding season, stallions are evaluated physically. Movement, body condition, muscle wastage, temperament and back problems are checked daily and treated accordingly.

Several bacteria can be transmitted by sexual contact and a detailed veterinary examination is required to be carried out prior to the season, including examination of the urethra, penis and prepuce, and palpation of the scrotum and testes. Bacteriological swabbing of the prepuce, penis and external urethra is carried out to ensure that the stallion is not a carrier of a transferable disease to his mares, namely contagious equine metritis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and klebsiella pneumoniae.

In order to do this one generally requires a mare from which to tease the stallion and previous work put in to control and discipline the stallion usually pays off.

In the immediate weeks prior to the commencement of the breeding season, stallions are test mated using a test mare which has no ovaries and is brought into oestrous, with Estrumate, to enable her to be covered. This serves two purposes for the stallion, firstly cleansing the testis and epididymis of older non fresh sperm and secondly to examine the nature of the ejaculate. This includes colour, which should be yellowish in nature and in certain cases sperm motility is also examined. Abnormalities may include the presence of blood in the sample indicative of haemospermia.

PREPARATION OF THE MARE

The management approach to covering mares may vary according to the mare or the stallion.

Maiden mares can be fiery, feel threatened and act accordingly towards the stallion.

Ideally, Welsh pony teasers are used to introduce maiden mares to the covering process, as they pose less threat to maidens and can tease and mount the maiden with no risk of covering.

The teaser breaks down the mare, mounting her several times in order that she poses no threat to the stallion.

The identification document or passport of the mare is checked to ensure that the right mare is going to be covered by the right stallion.

In the case of maiden or barren (older mares with no foal at foot), a veterinary swab report is confirmed to ensure she will not be introducing a transferable infection to the stallion.

INTRODUCTION OF THE STALLION

As part of the breeding routine we teach stallions to learn to wait in the breeding shed.

Prior to mating, the aim is to have the stallion exhibit calmness in the breeding shed; ideally the handler is the man that keeps the stallion safe and the stallion is introduced to the mare once the “head man” on the mare is happy that his team is in control.

Firmness and control is essential to prevent injury to staff and horses in the shed.

The stallion is brought into the shed with a bridle, or head collar (with either a bit or chain, depending on the stallion) and is allowed to approach from the left side, usually teasing the mare (working down from the shoulder to the flank, hocks and behind – sniffing, nibbling, nipping lightly).

To encourage the stallion to mount the mare, the head of the stallion is often lifted above the quarter of the mare, or turned slightly away, normally he usually drops the shoulder closest to the mare and gently nudges her away from him to ensure she does present a risk to himself.

In the case of the maiden stallion, control is essential and if the stallion charges at the mare he needs to be stopped and backed up and possibly removed from the barn, after which the routine starts again. Stallion attitude matters, especially with the young novice stallion. Bringing the mare close up whilst covering, lets him think about mounting the mare, keeping the mare slightly out of reach encourages the stallion to rear up a little to assist mounting the mare.

Typically the stallion will be energetic in courtship, he will nibble, smell and nip.

We as handlers set the limit, you want the stallion to show some aggression and bite the back of the mare’s neck when mounted.

Maiden stallions can be hesitant about this behaviour. In general, we allow the young stallion to get around the mare as they often find it hard to believe that they can get close to one and are dumb struck by what they are supposed to do. Ideally the first mare should be an older “matron” well in oestrous. Allowing her to turn her head and solicit him by moving and adopting a breeding posture will assist.

A bad experience will lead to “breeding shed hang-ups”. Avoid panic, if the stallion shows no inclination to mount, we assist him by walking a few steps and allowing him to follow at his own free will (on the lead line), this often excites them. The “perfume bottle” in the form of previously collected urine may stimulate his olfactory senses, thus exciting him.

Assisting him to mount by attaching another lead to the right side of the head collar and lifting his head over the rump of the mare often assists the young horse in learning the approach to a mare.

We generally allow extended time to teach the young stallion (approx 2hrs over three or four sessions), letting him have some play.

They develop routines, and once they have bred a mare several times, we know each individual’s routine and what we mutually expect from one another. Patience is essential!

Getting cross often complicates matters and might have a negative impact on the stallion, and he may lose his erection, libido or interest. We give as much leeway, providing that it is not dangerous. Thoughtful handling teaches the young stallion what is expected of him.

When handling stallions we never take chances, a seemingly relaxed stallion can change quickly become stimulated into serious action, often triggered by proximity of breeding mares, or other stallions.

DEALING WITH STALLION LIBIDO

Better known as a “shy breeders”, these are stallions which appear unenthusiastic about their mares.

Some stallions are more selective or “smarter”, they can be efficient and highly fertile but do not want to waste time on a mare that is not about to ovulate. Stallions are able to outsmart veterinary science and they have the ability to scent a mare in oestrous and have the ability to reject a mare that is not ready to conceive. 

There are stallions lineage’s that are well known for their quieter, cautious disposition, but generally musculoskeletal fitness, obesity, or pain can cause libido problems.

Exposure to mares promotes reproductive function, isolation from mares or exposure to other stallions often suppresses reproductive function. A new environment can intimidate new stallions, by allowing them to tease freely or allowing better access to mares, will in normal circumstances improve libido

POST COVERING SEMEN SAMPLES

A post covering semen sample is taken from the stallion by an assistant using a clean polystyrene cup.

A few drops of the semen are placed on the slide and the semen is examined to check colour. The slide is then placed under the microscope with a cover slip and sperm motility and concentration is judged.

Sperm motility in a normal healthy stallion usually does not vary (unless fertility is an issue). Quantity of sperm does vary with the degree to which the stallion has been working and a measurement from 1 – 5, depending on number and motility of sperm present on the slide, is recorded to judge stallion’s performance.

Immediate sperm motility should measure at 80%, progressing to 60%, about 15 minutes after covering at room temperature. Semen extenders may be used post cover with sub fertile stallions (made of a mixture of skimmed milk, glucose & antibiotics which is inserted directly into the uterus of the mare.)

All mares are treated with ovulatory drugs to enhance ovulation post cover and they may be treated with an in-utero post cover antibiotic wash and oxytocin therapy 24-48 hours later to enhance conception.

In the event that conceptions are obviously low with a stallion, the status of their fertility is tested.

Such issues often become a factor in older stallions and as a result they are managed accordingly.  In normal circumstances, a normal healthy stallion is expected to have a fertility measurement of above 80%. 

Stallion fertility may be affected not by the stallion, rather by the mare, the breeding shed rely on other management and the advice of the veterinary surgeon to decide on the optimal time for covering, it is vital that teasing, veterinary examinations and coverings are effective.

In normal circumstances assuming your mare ovulated 2 to 3 days post cover, she would be tested in foal at 16 days and our work from the Stallion Barn is successfully complete!

By striving to ensure that our stallions are well-prepared and happy, we can maximise the chances of successful coverings throughout the breeding season.

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