Storage of semen in the oven
Even in horse breeding, laboratory equipment is indispensable. In the laboratory of Ludo Philippaerts on the Dorperheide stud farm, the fresh semen of breeding stallions is stored in an oven at 37 °C.
Carmen Van Waeyenberghe, Memmert distributor in Belgium, interviewed the famous show jumper for AtmoSAFE.
World-class riders know why they primarily owe their success to their four-legged partners. If the horse contributes its personality and shows strength, jumping power, sensitivity and focus, it ideally only needs little help from his rider on the course. Although a show jumper naturally has a strong and trusting bond to all of his horses, the career of most riders is particularly shaped by one very special horse. For Ludo Philippaerts, it was his stallion Darco. The Belgian top rider, who took part in four Olympic Games and numerous World Equestrian Games, European championships and jumping competitions, achieved almost all of his successes with Darco or descendants of this famous Belgian warmblood.
Sperm count and mobility have to be just right
The Philippaerts family has a long tradition of equestrian sports. If Ludo Philippaerts is not on horseback himself or accompanies one of his sons Olivier and Nicola, both are also internationally successful, he dedicates his time to horse breeding on the Dorperheide stud farm or to trading of jumping and dressage horses.
From May to July, the equestrian sports world takes a summer break. During these months, the breeders on Dorperheide store the fresh semen of their breeding stallions in a Memmert oven at 37 °C. Before shipping, the morphology of each semen sample is tested. With the normal market prices of 1,000 € for the semen of a well-known breeding stallion, sperm count and mobility have to be just right.
Darco is still producing offspring today
To increase the percentage of motile (mobile) sperms and get rid of impurities that could influence the semen quality during storage and cooling, the semen is mixed with a diluting agent and centrifuged at 15,000 rpm. The diluting agent then extracted using a vacuum pump before the semen is tested.
In the tournament season, breeders use deep-frozen semen. Safely packed in a vial placed in liquid nitrogen, the samples can be stored for years. This way, it is still possible to breed with Darco today, although the famous stallion died at the high age of 26 in 2006. If deep-frozen semen is ordered, the sample is defrosted in a Memmert waterbath at 37.5 °C and, in a thermally insulated box, shipped from the Dorperheide stud farm to its recipient as quickly as possible.
Overview of focal topics
- Horse breeding
- Ludo Philippaerts
- Dorperheide stud farm
- Semen storage
- Sample storage
Picture credit: Stud Dorperheide and Voor't Labo