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Evaluation of stallion fertility via semen analysis
Pregnancy rates in managed horse populations depend on the innate fertility of the mares and stallions involved and on the quality of breeding management. The ideal is to predict fertility in advance of the stallion`s breeding career, and this is currently attempted by way of a thorough physical examination and a routine analysis of semen quality. A Dutch study group looked for tests with a good predictive value.

Since a single stallion usually mates many mares, his fertility is a critical factor in the overall success of a breeding program. Unfortunately, accurate evaluation of stallion fertility per se requires a large number of normal mares to be mated and is necessarily retrospective.

The current `breeding soundness examination` identifies stallions that clearly lack the capacity for adequate fertility, it is of limited use for predicting the level of fertility and fails to identify some seriously sub-fertile animals. Similarly, while various sperm function tests (e.g., sperm head morphometry, the hypoosmotic swelling test, glass wool-sephadex filtration, progesterone receptor exposure) have been shown to correlate fairly well with fertility in the field, most examine only a single or a narrow range of the attributes that a sperm must possess if it is to fertilize an oocyte in vivo, and are thus more useful for identifying specific causes of sub-fertility than for predicting the level of fertility.

On the other hand, combining the results of the various sperm function tests does improve the reliability of fertility estimation and current research is therefore concentrated on identifying a range of tests that covers as many important sperm attributes as possible but that can be performed rapidly and cheaply.

In this respect, flow-cytometry has proven to be an ideal tool because it allows the objective, rapid and simultaneous analysis of a number of properties in a large number of sperm. Moreover, stains are available for an increasing range of sperm characteristics including viability, capacitation and acrosome status, mitochondrial activity and chromatin integrity.

Flow-cytometric analysis of sperm with appropriate probes thus offers considerable promise for the prediction of stallion fertility.


Source: Colenbrander, B, Gadella, BM & Stout, TAE (2003): The Predictive Value of Semen Analysis in the Evaluation of Stallion Fertility. In:
Reproduction in Domestic Animals 38 (4), 305-311.








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