Equine Semen Storage
Deciding where and how to preserve your horse-breeding genetics.
By Dr. David Stone for AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis | January 1, 0001
In the world of frozen equine semen, it seems that the storage of the semen is oftentimes an afterthought. In reality, it is a very important part of the equation. The first decision for everyone who has semen frozen from a stallion is whether to store it themselves or have another facility take that responsibility. Advantages of self-storage mainly involve cost. However, cost savings can be quickly wiped out in short order with tank neglect, a fire or theft.
The initial cost of a tank is not insignificant and depends on the liquid nitrogen, or LN2, capacity. Price ranges for a new tank are from at least $300 for a 3.5-liter tank to more than $1,000 for a 50-liter tank. The hold time can be greatly increased with less evaporation or boil-off of LN2. The size of the tank neck determines how quickly this happens. For example, a 50-liter tank with a neck diameter of 5 cm can only hold about 1,200 straws (150 doses) but the LN2 hold time is more than 170 days. The same capacity tank with a neck diameter of 12.5 cm can hold well more than 8,000 straws (1,000 doses) but the hold time is only 90 days.
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The semen can thaw very quickly and be rendered useless if LN2 levels get below 5cm in any tank, so LN2 maintenance is obviously important. The cost of LN2 to maintain the tanks is not outrageous but will vary depending on location and volume used. If you decide on self-storage, you need to know about the safety measures of handling LN2. Goggles and insulated gloves are a must since temperatures are -320 F (-200 C). If skin comes in contact with LN2 for even a few seconds, severe tissue damage will occur. The vapor seen when LN2 boils at -196 C is condensed moisture, not nitrogen. Nitrogen gas is colorless and odorless, nontoxic and makes up 78 percent of the air we breathe, but it can take up space for oxygen, so care must be taken. The decision to allow a professional facility to store semen can be an easy one, especially when faced with all of the requirements for insuring frozen semen. For most insurance companies, a separate building with a fire sprinkler and constant checks by personnel can be overwhelming prerequisites for small operations. If the semen you have stored is from a deceased sire or is highly valuable because of demand or syndicate ownership, the benefits of professional storage can make it an easy choice.
Whether this is your first time breeding a mare, or whether you have been a horse breeder for decades, AQHA's free Mare Care: Breeding Tips report has great tips that will help you get your prized mare ready for breeding season. Download your free copy today.
Meticulous record keeping of inventory is no small task when the semen is being pulled out for shipment or breeding. In addition to record keeping, inventory maintenance, international shipment, advertisement and peace of mind are huge burdens lifted by professional storage. Semen storage is often taken for granted, but all of these factors need to be considered when making the decision of where and how to store the genetics you have frozen or are considering for frozen storage. Dr. Stone is the resident veterinarian at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, California.