Subfertile Breeding Stallions: Management Strategies (AAEP 2010)

“Stallions do not become sires because of reproductive capability,” began Dickson Varner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, professor of large animal medicine and surgery at Texas A&M University. “They’re selected based on performance, pedigree, and conformation–reproductive ability is last. The equine breeding industry abounds with stallions whose level of fertility is less than optimal.” Varner discussed
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"Stallions do not become sires because of reproductive capability," began Dickson Varner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, professor of large animal medicine and surgery at Texas A&M University. "They're selected based on performance, pedigree, and conformation–reproductive ability is last. The equine breeding industry abounds with stallions whose level of fertility is less than optimal."

Varner discussed several cases of breeding stallion subfertility at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md., along with semen and breeding management strategies that effectively increased those stallions' fertility. Some involved live cover programs, while others involved artificial insemination.

"Are we acting unethically when we enhance fertility in stallions?" he asked the audience. "It's not a black and white issue. It is difficult at present, except in isolated circumstances, to differentiate between heritable and nonheritable causes of reduced fertility."

The first step in improving breeding stallion fertility, he said, is to assess a stallion's breeding records to discover the circumstances that result in low fertility. The problem could be with the stallion, the mares, and/or their management. In the case of the mares, for example, he referenced one stallion that had above-average pregnancy rates per cycle for maiden and foaling mares, but lower rates for barren mares (which clearly had lower fertility). That latter group could lead you to underestimate the stallion's fertility if you didn't analyze the mares as well as the stallion

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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