Day 86. Melbourne Cup

In November 2012 on November 6, 2012 at 10:25 am

For Melbourne Cup competitor Americain “this will be his last Melbourne Cup campaign and then he will deservedly retire“, in all likelihood to become a breeding stallion.

Helped along by a little modern-day science, I assumed this would mean a life of electrically-induced sperm production. But no. According to the Australian Thoroughbred Breeders club,

“All major international thoroughbred stud books refuse to admit horses conceived by artificial insemination.”

Instead, a day in the life of Americain post-November-6-2012 might go a little something like this, as explained by ‘horsey woman” Rachael Gowland in a Guardian article:

In the breeding season, the stallion’s sex life runs like clockwork.

“He has a timetable,” she explains.

“He comes at 7 o’clock in the morning, noon, four o’clock in the afternoon, eight o’clock at night and if we’re desperate for space [in the schedule] midnight. But he has to have a space in between. We try not to give them five coverings a day unless we can help it. That’s hard work for the stallion, and for the staff.”

The sex scene is chaotic and very public: there may be a teaser stallion in the shed, whose job is to get the mare excited; the mare herself; her foal, sometimes penned, sometimes just held; the stallion; handlers for all the horses; and sometimes the mare’s owner and family looking on from a raised area. “Some people like to make a day of it,” says Gowland drily.

Most coverings will impregnate the mare first time, but sometimes they will need a few goes. Also, since everything depends on when the mare is ovulating, lots of slots need to be left free to allow for flexibility in the schedule.

Crikey. Think I’d rather run a horse race.

Off to buy a fascinator, hoo roo.

[photo under Creative Commons licence thanks to here]

  1. “All major international thoroughbred stud books refuse to admit horses conceived by artificial insemination.”

    What’s really interesting about this comment is the motivation behind the rules. The siring horses is a multi-billion dollar industry with massive logistics and infrastructure world wide. The industry owns specially customised Boeing 747 jets, freight trucks and all the associated equipment, handling and business that goes with maintaining and profligating the stud business.

    The industry influences government policy. For years bio security experts have been promoting artificial insemination as a lower risk alternative to the practice of covering that requires horses to be regularly shipped around the world. The eastern Australian racing industry was shut down from August 2007 to June 2008, because of the horse-flu epidemic introduced by a studding horse arrived from Japan, and still covering is the only accepted practice by the industry.

  2. Yes, the motivations are certainly interesting.

    The same article I quoted, by Stephen Moss at The Guardian, later goes on to say:

    “The standard argument is that because AI would allow top stallions to impregnate not hundreds but thousands of mares, it would lead to a potentially catastrophic narrowing of the gene pool. This is disputed by supporters of AI. The incontestable fact is that it would lead to a dramatic fall in covering fees. The semen of a Sea the Stars is worth £75,000-plus because it is available to only 100 or so selected mares every year. Offer it to everyone in a test tube and the value would plummet. One stud owner even raises the prospect of black-market sachets being sold on the back streets of Newmarket.”

    All about control it would appear.

  3. […] was most valuable for preparing posts such as the ScienceforLife.365 12 Days of Christmas, Easter, Melbourne Cup and Chinese New Year to name a […]

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