The AFC has maintained one of the largest recipient mare herds in the eastern United States since 1999, averaging 200 mares on the property. A tremendous amount of work and cost is involved in acquiring, maintaining, and managing the reproductive status of a large recipient herd, but we believe it is the core of a successful embryo transfer program. Proper time is taken to select the mares and daily reproductive evaluations are conducted to ensure the best synchronization to the donor mare for optimum chance of acceptance of the embryo. Our success rate of Grade 1-2 embryos transferred stands at 80% for a positive 14-day pregnancy check. Once the embryo has a recognizable heartbeat, usually at the 21-day pregnancy check, the lease is activated and the owner has the choice to leave the mare at the AFC on pasture board or to take the mare to their facility.
This process begins with harvesting eggs (oocytes) from the mare. This OPU technology consists of the needle aspiration of oocytes from the ovaries of donor mares using a transvaginal ultrasound-guided technique. Once collected, the oocytes are placed in culture media to induce maturation. This process mimics the development that would occur naturally within the mare. The oocytes that mature then will be subjected to ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), the process of injecting each oocyte with an individual sperm from the desired stallion. The resulting fertilized oocytes are then cultured in the lab to allow development into a stage of an embryo (blastocyst) suitable for transfer. The embryo can then be placed into a recipient mare or frozen and stored for later transfer.
ICSI is appropriate for mares that are unable to become pregnant for various reasons including chronic uterine disease, cervical disease, physical problems that don’t allow carrying a foal and ET mares that no longer produce embryos. This technique is also great for the performance mare with limited time for breeding management. Only a small quantity of semen, either fresh, cooled or frozen, is needed to fertilize each oocyte during the ICSI session. For this reason, ICSI can be successfully applied when limited semen is available or with the stallion that has poor fertility.
Equigea is our newest effort that brings a new level of science and experience, allowing our clients to take advantage of the latest technology that the industry has to offer. The vast resources brought together by Equigea make the ICSI program a viable choice for our clients.
This new company brings together three of the most prominent individuals in assisted equine reproduction: Dr. Phil Matthews, Dr. Cesare Galli and Dr. Edward Squires. Each of the partners has over 30 years of experience and an expertise in developing reproductive techniques and applying them in a commercial setting.
Peterson Smith's AFC offers Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in conjunction with UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine. PGD is a procedure used to screen embryos recovered after uterine flushes to determine gender and genetic traits by DNA testing prior to them being transferred into a recipient mare. DNA testing allows breeders to maximize their breeding program by selecting embryos for desired sex, coat color variants, or that are free of known genetic diseases.
Biopsies are performed by aspirating embryonic cells on Day 6½ or Day 7. The cells are then shipped overnight to The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory for DNA testing. Results are usually available within 96 hours.
The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory offers DNA tests on equine embryos for gender, genetic disease (GBED, HERDA, HYPP, Lethal White Overo, Malignant Hypothermia for Quarter Horses and related breeds, or CA for Arabians) and coat color (Red Factor, Agouti, Champagne, Cream, Pearl, Silver, Lethal White Overo, Gray, Sabino-1, Tobiano, Dominant White W10, Splashed White).
Our embryo freezing program offers breeders many different opportunities and benefits. Frozen embryos have an indefinite storage period, which provides an option for breeders who desire the flexibility to transfer earlier in the season or transfer to their own recipient mares at a future date. It also provides the option to preserve embryos from ICSI procedures that result in multiple transferable embryos, as well as collect and freeze during the off season. We also have the ability to import and export frozen embryos worldwide. Although the preferred size embryo for freezing is a 6½ day embryo due to its small size, we are now able to freeze 7-8-day embryos by collapsing them via micro-manipulation prior to vitrification.