Overcoming Three Embryo Transfer Obstacles

A reproductive specialist describes techniques to help clinicians overcome common challenges in embryo recovery and recipient mare management.
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A healthy equine embryo. | Courtesy Dr. Ryan Ferris
Veterinarians routinely perform embryo transfers to obtain foals from valuable mares that are unavailable to carry a pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Maybe the mare’s owner wants her to produce more than one foal a year. Maybe she’s physically unable to carry a foal to term. Or, perhaps she’s a performance mare that’s actively competing.

There are common challenges, however, that practitioners face when completing these procedures. Ryan Ferris, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, owner of Summit Equine, in Newberg, Oregon, described three and how to overcome them during the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas.

While he was an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s (CSU) Equine Reproduction Laboratory, Ferris and colleagues performed three studies during the 2016/17 breeding season to address the following issues.

1. What media should veterinarians use for embryo recovery?

“The options for embryo recovery fluid can be overwhelming,” Ferris said, referring to what the veterinarian uses to retrieve the embryo from the uterus. Clinicians at CSU typically use a complete flush media (a ready-to-use solution that doesn’t require additions of serums or antibiotics), whereas in many other countries practitioners use Ringer’s lactate solution or Hartmann’s solution, which veterinarians in the United States also use during uterine lavage.

During the 2016 breeding season Ferris and his team alternated using complete flush media (78 embryo recovery attempts) or Hartmann’s solution (77 embryo recovery attempts) on every other mare. They recovered embryos in 46.2% of attempts with complete flush media and 57.1% of attempts with Hartmann’s solution

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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