We were getting hay today, and the hay man was there getting ready to breed a mare. We got to talking, and he mentioned that he never did any kind of uterine checkups or cultures or anything on his mares. His reasoning was that he'd had the same mares forever and they never showed a problem before. Do you ever just not have your mares cultured?
I dunno, it seems like breeding is so expensive, and can be so heart breaking, I'd rather spend the money every year and never have a single problem than have a mare not take or lose a baby.
I'm not doing my maiden mare and breeding her this year. I think it is more common with bigger breeders as I recently spoke with a stallion owner w/ several mares that did not culture their mares unless they knew of a problem. I think some stallion owners who ship semen out require this as part of the agreement ?
Have not done one in years and don't recommend it unless there is a suspicion because if there is a problem you can usually breed and treat in the same cycle anyway. We find that very seldom there is an unknown problem and when there is one it is usually not persistent when treated properly. I base this on hundreds of successful breedings a year and feel it is a waste of money for most mare owners to do a culture when it only benefits a few.
I agree with Edgar and that is the opinion of two of my vets also, one of them is a therionologist.
I *hate* it when its on the breeding contract and usually try to get out of doing one by changing the contract ( it represnet close to $150 extra cost for me). If the stallion owner is adamant I've often walked unless it was the *absolute* best stallion for my mare or if it was a custom foal.
We learned our lesson the hard way this year, spend loads on trying to get a mare bred and she then tested positive on the culture we did after the 2nd breeding attempt. By that point, we had one go left in the season and we were dealing with a major infection. We tried again, but it didn't work...so essentially I could have saved myself a heap of money and had a baby this year had I done my homework earlier.
The culture cost for me was $60, and my time to haul my mare to the vet, while the cost of my breeding attempts was almost 5k. That tells me all I need to know about what I'll be doing in the future, for any mare I've left open one season anyhow.
Imax - Fresstyle x Juventus x Rubinstein
2014 - Sister to IMAX (hopefully)
I never have swabs taken. We breed six to eight mares every year onsite the majority of which have held on first time insemination year after year. The only time I have had the mares swabbed is when they have gone off to stud to be bred with frozen semen as its stud policy to do so. To be honest I've never given it much thought until I read your thread.
Nonethless all visiting mares do have to be swabbed and vaccinations up to date.
I have stopped doing it after several years and only ever having one positive which was after a fresh semen breeding with very questionable looking semen. The mare showed signs of inflamation so I would do one in that case even now. But, unless there is indication of a problem, I see no reason and think it is a waste of money. If you know your mares and their history, I think your potential to create a problem outweighs the benefit. I can't imagine someone wanting to check a maiden.
I can tell you from owning an equine veterinary practice that maidens can, and do, have infections. Simply b/c of the anatomy of the mare, any mare can have an infection, considering the possibility of contamination with fecal material. We have, and continue to reccomend a pre-breeding culture and cytology on all mares. I also do this with my own mares, so it isn't simply an issue of generating revenue, either. I've seen far too many clients lose a cycle due to an infected mare.
My fear is not only losing a cycle, but losing the one dose, or even x # of straws I may have of a stallion that is hard and/or expensive to obtain. Thinking of my gamble with Canturo- I even go so far as to wait until the mare has her first foal before using my scanty semen dose!
There are several factors to consider in response to the question of uterine evaluation (note that I am referencing uterine evaluation and not a uterine culture specifically). The first point that I will make is that a uterine swab culture alone is absolutely worthless as a definitive diagnostic of uterine condition. The results must be confirmed by the findings of a cytology smear of the swab - for more details on why, see our article about uterine cytology - also note in that article the statistic of the percentage of veterinarians that do not routinely perform a cytology smear in conjunction with a culture, so specifically ask for one!
Now let's consider numbers... if a breeder is breeding 100 of their own mares, then statistically speaking 60% of them will get pregnant on the first breeding cycle, so performing 60 unnecessary swabs and c+c would be a huge waste of time and money. HOWEVER... if a breeder is breeding only 1 mare, then with a statistical pregnancy rate of 60%, that means a wasted cycle for almost half of those mare owners - quite possibly as a result of a uterine issue. From a statistical aspect therefore, the small breeder (let's say 1-5 mares) is probably better off financially and time-wise (and we're not considering other possible aspects here that have already been raised such as limited semen supply) to perform at the very least a pre-breeding swab and cytology smear if not the culture. The cytology smear incidentally is quickly performed and will reliably tell you more alone than will a culture.
So what about the 40% of mares that the breeder did not get pregnant on the first cycle (statistically)? The next cycle it now becomes worthwhile taking a look at the uterus and it's contents. As noted above, at the very least a cytology smear being prepared and read will identify the majority of mares in this group that have issues related to uterine organisms, and allow for further diagnostics. Again - statistically - 60% of these mares (once treated suitably) will become pregnant on this second cycle, so we are now up to 84% of mares pregnant while minimizing diagnostic expenses.
If a mare is not pregnant after two cycles of breeding and swab diagnostics at some level, then the decision needs to be made on the next cycle as to whether to (a) repeat the breeding and consider the failure to establish pregnancy on cycle 2 "just one of those things"; (b) repeat the diagnostic on the off chance that something was missed; (c) increase the level of diagnostic by performing a biopsy and culture. All have valid arguments to be made for them, and should be considered in the individual circumstances.
In the face of obvious issues, it is of course a false economy not to perform diagnostics. What are "obvious issues"? Here are a few:
Poor reproductive conformation;
Fluid - especially grayscale fluid - identified per ultrasound;
Failure to establish pregnancy in prior season;
Mares that have had uterine pathogenic issues in the past;
Repeat breeder mares from the same season.
On the subject of maiden mares: We have seen maiden mares that have come off the racetrack present with Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which is sexually transmissible in live cover situations) even though they have a Caslick's procedure in place! We therefore do not consider maiden mares to be a "never swab" situation. If they fit one of the categories above, then they get swabbed. For those that are considering live cover and not swabbing mares prior to breeding - think of the possibility of transmission of a bacterial STD. Rare? Sure! But if it happens just once to your stallion... Incidentally, if you read the article on our site to which I have linked above, you will see that Pseudomonas spp. have the possibility of being a commensal organism (one which is present but not active in the body until something triggers activity), and is the one argument against performing a cytology smear alone, as there may not be inflammatory cells present even if the mare is infected with that pathogen if the organism is in a commensal state - hence swab, culture and cytology is always recommended in live cover situations.
With the presence of Taylorella equigenitalis (the causative agent of CEM) now identified in our US horse population, there is also a strong argument to be made for pre-breeding swabbing and culturing of the mare's clitoris and clitoral sinuses to evaluate for presence/absence of the CEMO. This is standard practice in other countries such as the United Kingdom, where the British Horserace Betting Levy Board's Codes of Practice on CEM and other sexually transmitted organisms is voluntarily adhered to by many - in particular in the Thoroughbred field where AI is not permitted and there is therefore a greater risk of transmission of pathogens during breeding. North America is far behind those other countries in the preventative care measures that are in place.