Barren Broodmares: Part 2

Pre-breeding season care can decrease a mare’s chance of barrenness.

This is the last of a two-part series. Need to review Part 1? The best time to work on open mares is the fall or at least the very beginning of the breeding season. Too often, owners breed their barren mare through several cycles before asking a veterinarian to examine her. Then they discover that the mare has a uterine infection or some other problem. By the time the condition is evaluated and treated, valuable time is lost and the breeding season may be over. If a mare has a history of breeding problems, she needs a thorough examination by a veterinarian. An ultrasound can locate and identify fluid accumulation in the uterus, endometrial cysts, and uterine and ovarian tumors. The ovaries also should be examined to ensure they are functional.

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Of extreme importance in maintaining a pregnancy is the condition of the endometrium (the interior mucous lining of the uterus). A flexible endoscope is used to visually examine the endometrium. An endometrial culture can be taken to determine if there is a bacterial infection. Chronic bacterial or yeast infections, as well as scar tissue, can cause blockage of the mare’s oviducts and prevent the egg from entering the uterus. Once pregnancy has been established, some mares experience hormone deficiencies during the first trimester that do not allow them to carry the foal to term. Frequent blood progesterone assays can be performed to determine if there is a deficiency. If progesterone levels are too low, supplementation can be provided. Most mares cycle more predictably later in the breeding season, and their estrus cycles are shorter.

Therefore, it is a good idea to wait until late spring or early summer to breed problem mares. Because it is preferable to breed barren mares as little as possible, their cycles should be followed closely via teasing and rectal palpation. One ovulations is imminent, it is ideal to breed the mare through artificial insemination. AI is cleaner, and the volume of semen can be controlled. Also, semen extenders can be used with low-level antibiotics to help fight off bacterial contamination. Once the barren mare has been bred, it is important to ensure that she has not accumulated a lot of fluid in the uterus during the estrus cycle. It is best to ultrasound the mare, and if fluid is present, flush her with warm saline to tone up the uterus. A procedure to suture the mare’s vulva closed will prevent aspiration of air and bacterial contamination. Additional aspects of managing barren mares involve reducing stress, preventing colic and ensuring a well-balanced diet. A good worming and vaccination program is also essential. Plenty of exercise will keep the mare fit.

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