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Freezing Epididymal Spermatozoa in a Deceased Stallion

Scone Equine Hospital - Friday, October 23, 2020
Freezing Epididymal Spermatozoa in a Deceased Stallion

Smooth Like Cactus was in his prime. Cow horse, campdrafts and stockmans challenges – you name it, he excelled! He stood his first breeding season in 2018 as a 5 yr old at Tamworth Equine Veterinary Centre but before his first crop of foals hit the ground disaster struck. A catastrophic paddock injury resulted in the heartbreaking decision by owner Becky Lock of Atomic Performance Horses to euthanise Cactus.Whilst the decision was not made easily, there was a silver lining. No frozen semen had ever been stored from this young stallion. However, Dr Jen Clulow of Scone Equine Hospital was able to extract epididymal sperm from Cactus and freeze several doses using careful technique and experience she gained whilst completing her PhD in equine stallion semen cryopreservation. The resulting product was used to breed Becky’s own mare Atomic Seductress. Under the careful expertise of Dr Gill Rickard of South Coast Equine Veterinary Practice, an embryo was retrieved from Atomic Seductress and placed into a recipient mare resulting in this beautiful filly, born last week!

Whilst this story certainly has a silver lining, a fatal injury in a stallion is often devastating to owners. Collecting ejaculated spermatozoa is a far more reliable technique for the cryopreservation of spermatozoa and is recommended and encouraged! However, in the event of a catastrophe, spermatozoa can be recovered from the epididymis (the sperm storage portion of the testes) and frozen. The ideal extraction of spermatozoa from the epididymis is from a completely healthy castrated, sexually mature individual. The quality of the spermatozoa reserves will be significantly less if a colt or stallion has been suffering significant pain, fever or from a chronic illness. Whilst it is important to do everything within our power to conserve valuable genetics, the decision for extraction of spermatozoa should not be left too late. This is of course easy to say when not in the face of this difficult decision, but we generally find that the more successful extractions have been from stallions experiencing fatal injury rather than illness.

If considering freezing epididymal spermatozoa, it is important the testes are harvested using the correct method to ensure safe transport and maximum extraction. The longer the time between castration and cryopreservation, the lower the chances of a positive outcome.

Please contact us for further information on this specialist service.