One of the most important things discussed in the mini-symposium conducted by Twink Allen and Sandra Wilsher at Keeneland on Oct. 20 was how artificial insemination could help breeders and stallion farm owners do their jobs more easily and economically.
First and foremost, AI would improve access to stallions to an amazing degree.
Every mare owner in Kentucky, and many across the country, knows that the availability of the stallion when a mare is at peak fertility is the greatest problem created by the vast books currently being served by stallions, especially the top 50 or so in Kentucky.
Getting a cover from one of the better Kentucky stallions requires booking days in advance, with multiple rechecks of the mare’s follicle activity to determine how she is progressing and when she is best able to get in foal. There is a resulting dance among the different mare owners from one day to the next as they try to position their mares for covering, and the booking secretaries at most Bluegrass farms deserve honorary degrees in diplomacy from the State Department for their work in keeping the peace and getting most of the mares scheduled and bred when they need to be.
Inevitably, however, for the most popular stallions, some of the mares trying to get a cover will be shut out. That is harmful to the mare owner, to the stallion, to the farms involved, and so forth. Allen and his associates quite rightly see this as the chief argument in favor of AI.
In addition, they point out that farms would save quite large sums by reducing some of the labor required for every mare to have a live cover. There would be savings in insurance because of lesser exposure of the stallion and the work force to strange horses, and there might be some reduction in disease transmission, as well.
Mares would not have to leave their home farms to be fertilized with AI. Instead, they could stay with their foals, not experience the stress of separation and travel, and be fertilized in their stalls by the local veterinarian with simple equipment.