Horse Breeding Abroad

A primer on the international export of frozen equine semen.

Stallion ownership today has a variety of opportunities to spread superior genetics internationally. Many of you may be familiar with the use of cryopreserved, or frozen, semen in the equine industry and the advantages it may have. The advantages include but are not limited to preserving genetics for insurance purposes, in the case that the stallion develops decreased semen quality (either due to testicular degeneration or illness) or needs to be euthanized; convenience for the breeder to have the semen on hand; and for shipping to a novel group of mares in distant areas of the world. This article will discuss the process of making a facility and a stallion eligible for freezing semen for international shipment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website, there are approximately 150 approved freezing centers in the United States. Each country of import has strict regulations for the semen collection center that can be exhaustive, from specifying what type of fencing is allowed to making sure the premises is not located in an area where any major foreign  animal diseases have been reported in recent months. Although each import premises can have different regulations, most require:

  • that the facility be fenced off from surrounding premises
  • monitoring as to who (human and animal) comes and goes daily
  • the stallion be kept out of direct contact with other horses on the property
  • all facilities be built so that cleaning and disinfection can be easily maintained by trained personnel
  • that frozen semen be stored in a secured area, separated from unqualified semen
  • that detailed health records be kept on every equine on the property
  • that all animal-origin products used (extenders, diluents, etc.) not pose health risks
  • that all events be supervised by a federally accredited center veterinarian

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This list is by no means comprehensive; there are more regulations, which can be found on the APHIS website or through each importing country’s Department of Agriculture. These regulations may change at any time, and it is the responsibility of the official collection center veterinarian, the APHIS veterinarians who approve the center and the health certificates, and the stallion owner to keep apprised of those changes. Usually, an APHIS veterinarian will inspect and approve each facility every year. The commonality between importing countries is the focus on assuring that the stallion and surrounding animals on the premises are free

from infectious disease, including sexually transmitted diseases. The majority of these regulations have a set time period prior to entry into the facility, prior to collections and/or  after ceasing collections. For example, there is a strict policy that stallions not breed mares by natural cover just before or during collections, exhibit no signs of infectious diseases nor come from a country or premises in which certain diseases are common nor have recently been diagnosed in the population. Most require a set time period of: 1. isolation before commencement of both testing and collections, 2. isolation after collections, and 3. holding the semen at the center until allowed to be exported. Some require certain vaccination protocols, for example, Australia prohibits vaccination against Venezuelan equine encephalitis in the 60 days prior to entering the collection center. The majority of the time spent in the center, other than collections, is spent testing the stallion for diseases such as contagious equine metritis, equine arteritis virus, equine infectious anemia, vesicular stomatitis and equine coital exanthema. Although the stallion may have been tested for any or all of these diseases previously, testing for collection of semen for international export requires that it be done by the federally accredited veterinarian (or under his or her supervision) while on the premises of the USDA-APHIS-approved center during the required time period. Therefore, it is crucial that the stallion owner communicate with the center staff or veterinarian prior to testing so that an appropriate schedule can be made. In addition, for many of the importing countries, testing is only valid for 6 months to one year, and the whole process must be repeated if more breeding doses are to be collected for exportation in the future or if the stallion leaves the collection facility.

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After all is said and done, the center veterinarian and the APHIS veterinarian must complete a health certificate for that stallion and the frozen semen. Of notable importance, the importer who is receiving the breeding doses must have a permit to import. Communication with your importer is equally important! The semen will be packaged in an appropriate container and the official USDA-APHIS seal will ensure that it has remained closed until it reaches quarantine at the destination. Exporting frozen semen can seem daunting and require significant resources to get accomplished. But for many breeding operations, international breeding fees make up an important and substantial portion of income collected and can be an extra source of income during the off season. These reasons, plus the obvious benefit of getting a stallion’s genetics to superior mares outside of North America, are great reasons to consider international exportation of frozen semen for one’s stallion program. For more information, visit the APHIS website at Dr. Mancill is resident veterinarian and breeding manager at SDP Buffalo Ranch in Fort Worth, Texas and is a Diplomate of the American College of Theriogenology.