Semen Shipment Etiquette

Written By: Pat Griffin, DVM, PhD, DACT

Written By: Pat Griffin, DVM, PhD, DACT

Breeding horses is a difficult business. It’s an expensive, arduous, lengthy process that involves multiple people and horses, and sometimes multiple states. In trying to complete the process, there are a few things you should do to make sure that you’re a good ambassador to the rest of the team. Here are some tips for working with your own veterinarian, as well as the veterinarian handling the other horse.

Over communicate

It’s better to have ten calls from mare and stallion owners over the course of a month than have one frantic call saying “My mare is ovulating right now, I need that semen ASAP!!!”, or “We need to collect Storm TODAY!”. Give your veterinarian and the mare/stallion owner plenty of notice of your plans. Tell them exactly what you need in order to get the best results.

Information for the veterinarian shipping semen:

  • WHICH stallion should be shipped?

  • WHERE should the semen be shipped?

  • WHEN does the semen need to arrive?

  • WHO is paying the shipping?

  • HOW MANY doses of semen should be shipped?

  • Approval from BOTH the stallion and mare owner

Information for the veterinarian breeding the mare:

  • WHAT type of semen is arriving (fresh or frozen)?

  • WHERE is the semen arriving?

  • WHEN is the semen arriving?

  • WHERE is the semen coming from?

  • WHICH mare is being bred?

  • If there is more than one dose, are you using both for one breeding, or saving the additional dose in case the mare doesn’t take?

Understand a mare’s cycle

Understand that the mare is the deciding factor when it comes to shipping and breeding. It’s extremely helpful to a veterinarian if a horse owner understands the phases of a mare’s cycle, when you want to breed her, when you would need Lutalyse or Regumate, etc. If you have any questions, ask your veterinarian at the start of the breeding process. In the meantime, read up from reputable sources online.

Don’t wait until the last minute

If you can check off the last tip (understand a mare’s cycle), then you’ll know that there are plenty of signs pointing to when your mare will ovulate, and when you’ll need the semen. If you’re using fresh semen, it’s not only helpful but necessary to give the stallion owner and assisting veterinarian (if applicable) plenty of notice. They’ll need to schedule the collection as well as collect all of the necessary information from you (see items 1 and 6). If you need to ship semen internationally, there’s a long process with the USDA-APHIS to get a semen export permit and health certificate. Please give us enough time to complete these items.

If you’re using frozen semen, definitely don’t wait until the last minute.

This is the biggest pet peeve for reproductive veterinarians – don’t call up a veterinarian and ask for frozen semen to be shipped for tomorrow, or even shipped tomorrow for the following day. At Irongate Equine Clinic, we request that you give us 48 hours from when you need the semen shipped, which means at least 72 hours notice prior to when you need the semen. The real glory of frozen semen is that you don’t need to sync up the timing perfectly. Call a week in advance and get the semen shipped to you. Then, when your mare progresses more quickly than expected, it’s ready and waiting. A caveat to this is that your veterinarian has a semen tank in which to store the semen. Which brings us to Point 4. . . 

Return shipping containers promptly

Veterinarians have many clients requesting shipment of semen, so those vapor shippers and equitainers are in high demand. Do everyone a solid and return the shipper as soon as possible.

Pay up front

This should be a no brainer, but here we go anyway. When you’re a mare owner that isn’t a client of a veterinarian, there’s no established relationship there. Thus, there can’t be any reasonable expectation of trust that outstanding balances will be paid. Keep things simple by providing a Fedex number and a credit card number up front so that shipping and processing costs can be covered from the get go.

3 Quotes Illustrating What NOT to do:

“Can you breed my mare tomorrow?”

Nope. Breeding a mare doesn’t qualify as an emergency, so it’s unlikely that a veterinarian will have time to breed your mare off the cuff. Additionally, there’s a science to when we breed mares. If you want the best chance to get your mare in foal, we recommend doing a few checks to make sure she’s ready.

“I’ll need that semen tomorrow.”

Sorry! If you’re using frozen semen, the available vapor shippers may be in another state or even country, they may need to be charged overnight, or the veterinarian may simply not be working! If you’re using fresh semen, many stallion owners only collect on specific days, and you need to schedule a collection, same as with any other appointment. Call ahead of time to avoid disappointment and a lost breeding cycle.

“I forgot to give my mare the Lutalyse.”

If you decide to save some money by administering certain medications yourself, please make sure that you follow the protocol laid out by your veterinarian. Your mare’s timely progression impacts the scheduling of your breeding as well as the likelihood of success!

If you have any other questions, contact us today!