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This Spring I purchased some Dutch Warmblood sperm to breed my friend's Thouroughbred mare. We tried insemination three times and she did not take. I have another brood mare that is not a TB. My friend suggested I take her mare's egg and the DWB sperm and put it in my mare. Can you explain this process? Can I do this safely? What are the risks? What does it cost? Can it be done at U of I?



I believe the process that your friend was talking about is called Oocyte transfer or GIFT (gamete intra-fallopian transfer). With GIFT, a veterinarian would harvest the eggs from the donor mare and tranfer them into the oviduct(fallopian tubes) of a recipient mare. The recipient mare is then inseminated normally to achieve conception.

To optimize the success of the procedure, both mares must have their estrous cycles synchronized so that the oviductal environments of the donor and recipient are the same. Additionally, the recipient mare must have her eggs aspirated out of the developing follicles to ensure that the only eggs present to get fertilized are those of the donor mare. The success rate of an oocyte transfer is approximate 50% with high quality eggs from a donor going into a reproductively healthy recipient. Obviously the success rate declines if the donor eggs are poor quality and/or the recipient is not reproductively sound. The procedure is a relatively safe procedure with the greatest amount of risk being associated with the follicle aspiration technique.

Prior to attempting an oocyte transfer, both the donor and the recipient need to be assessed for reproductive health. If the reason for the donor mare's failure to achieve a pregnancy is because the quality of her eggs is poor she would not be a good candidate for oocyte transfer. Therefore, you need to determine why the donor mare was not able to get pregnant last breeding season.

Secondly the recipient mare needs to go through a rigorous reproductive exam as well. An ideal recipient mare is between the ages of 5-10, has carried at least one foal to term, delivered with no problems and has proven to be a good mother. The recipient candidate should have a uterine culture and uterine biopsy done to ensure that her reproductive tract is ready to maintain a pregnancy.

The U of I can do this procedure. They have attempted a limited number of oocyte transfers in horses. At this time they cannot give an accurate cost estimate, however, it would be several thousand dollars by the time the two mares have thorough reproductive exams, their cycles are synchronized and the transfer is done. Dr. Tomasia would be the veterinarian to contact at 217-333-2000.

Before going to this extreme you may want to determine why the Thoroughbred didn't get pregnant. It could be because of poor quality semen. You did not mention whether the semen was cooled or frozen. Freezing semen can drastically decrease conception rates. If conception failed because of semen issues then oocyte tranfer is the not the answer.

Poor handling of the semen at the time of insemination, bad washing procedures on the mare, and poor insemination techniques could also be reasons why the mare did not conceive. I recommend that the mare go through an extensive breeding soundness exam very early next breeding season so that the problem can be pinpointed and you can proceed with a plan of action specific for the problem identified.

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