Breeding the Older Mare, PT 4

Alrighty! We're down to our last segment in our Breeding the Older Mare series. Parts One, Two & Three discussed some of the challenges breeders face with aging broodmares. These include uterine health, contamination and infection, past foaling history and / or traumas, infertility and keeping your older mare in foal, once she is confirmed pregnant.

So with all these considerations, what if you, as a breeder, decide that the pros absolutely do not outweigh the cons when it comes to breeding your older mare this year? The good news is, if you'd still like a foal from her, you do have options.

Dr. Chris Berezowski DVM, DACT, DABVP (Equine) of Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, AB, helps My Stable Life out today with some Q & A insight into the world of embryo transfer regarding older mares.

Credit: PS Video

Q – At what age can a breeder no longer obtain embryos from a mare?

A – It can be variable depending on the total reproductive health of the mare.  In a lot of cases, we are able to get embryos from mares into their mid-twenties.

Q. Do her aging eggs become a concern/challenge at any point for embryo transfer?

A – The fact that the eggs (oocytes) are older can lower the overall pregnancy rate, as these older oocytes have a higher chance of having damaged DNA.

Q. At what age should a breeder consider embryo transfer from a mare? (If you have a good one you want to continue getting foals from)

A – Usually the deciding factor is when the mare is not able to carry pregnancies on her own anymore.  Either because of poor uterine health or other physical ailment. As long as the mare can still become pregnant and maintain it for the first seven days, then an embryo transfer can be successful.

Another reason for doing embryo transfer in an older mare is to maximize the number of foals from a valuable mare as she gets near the end of her reproductive life.

Q. What are some things an owner can do to ensure optimum health in the older broodmare?

A – Probably the biggest factor is just overall health.  Good nutrition, deworming, teeth, etc…

Luckily with the advent of new technology and tools (for instance embryo transfer and oocyte / embryo freezing to retain genetic material,) your old broodmare can be what she used to be.