The Pros and Cons of Artificial Insemination

By Debra Ottier, BSc(Agr), MSc

Iron Horse Equine


Artificial Insemination using equine semen is of growing importance in North America. The Canadian horse is diversified across Canada with some horses in the western and eastern provinces having little choice as to which stallion to breed their mare to. A stallion owner should be looking towards this method of breeding to increase the number of mares booked to their stallion while providing different bloodlines to isolated populations. The mare owner should also consider this method of breeding, as the major benefits of AI include:

  1. More offspring from the best sires — One ejaculate can be used to inseminate many mares
  2. Ease of transportation — Semen in straws or packaged for transported, cooled is much easier than are animals
  3. Reduced risk — Risk of injury during transport or during breeding is non existent with AI
    • Stallion collected off a phantom mare, no risk of being kicked
    • Mare remains at home, no transporting injuries or injuries due to stallion mounting
    • Foal, if at side, can be at risk of injury during transport or breeding
  4. Reduced risk of infection — Antibiotics are added to extender for the semen, no penetration of stallion into mare
  5. Conception rates are comparable to live cover!!
  6. Insemination in the mare is quick and easy — Owner can inseminate if trained
  7. Semen can be stored after death of stallion
  8. Cost? — In the long run, AI is cost efficient
  9. Stallion can service mares in all areas of North America — Mares in Alberta and British Columbia can be serviced by stallions at stud in Ontario and Quebec.

Along with advantages to Artificial Insemination, one must also consider the disadvantages when deciding to develop an AI program, or if deciding to breed a mare utilizing AI. However, these can be overcome.

  1. Collection can be difficult as need mare in heat if no phantom mare available
    • Collection facilities are available to provide this service
  2. Stallion can become overused in a particular mare population
    • Breed registrations can limit the number of offspring registered under AI programs
  3. Semen from some stallions is not suitable for freeze-thawing
    • Research into improving cryopreservation of stallion spermatozoa is ongoing
  4. Increased mare attention
    • With education and organization, an owner or breeder can fit this into the daily chores schedule
  5. Cost? — In the short term, the initial outlay can be expensive for the stallion owner

As I have stated before, choosing the stallion for your mare can be a difficult task. It is not best to breed to any stallion based solely on price. Consideration must be taken into the pedigree or bloodline of the stallion – Is the stallion related to my mare within three generations?¬† Conformation – Does this stallion improve my mare’s weaknesses? ie narrow chested mare should not be bred to a narrow chested stallion. Performance and Temperament should also be considered. A study with the University of Guelph is considering the level of genetic variation in several breeds of horse, including the Standardbred, the Quarterhorse and the Canadian horse which may aid breeders in the future.

We offer mobile services to aid breeders in training and collection of stallions for use in a transported semen program and, if required, facilities for shipping a mare to be incorporated into an AI program if the owner wishes to have AI services performed for them (ie – if you wish to breed to a stallion standing with AI services only, our facility can do it for you). As well, we offer workshops in training individuals in the processes of Artificial Insemination, including both mare and stallion procedures.