A mobile semen freezing laboratory is the perfect solution for stallion owners, managers, and/or trainers who wish to have their stallions remain at “home” rather than sending them to a facility for semen freezing. Select Breeders Service (SBS) pioneered the equine mobile semen freezing industry and to this day remains the leader in the industry. The SBS Affiliate Network has four mobile laboratories within the United States and one in Sweden. In this article we will discuss why you may choose to use a mobile lab, where our mobile labs travel, and whether semen can be qualified for export when processed in a mobile lab.
When Paul Loomis began SBS in 1987 he was asked to travel to specific locations to freeze semen from a particular stallion. As a traveling frozen semen technician he would either load all of his equipment (microscopes, liquid nitrogen storage tanks, controlled rate cell freezer, centrifuge, etc.) into his vehicle to drive to the destination or baggage check all of the equipment at the airport in order to be where he was needed. Not only did this require extra time for Paul but was also very hard on the equipment.
In 1994, Select Breeders Southwest (SBSW) introduced the industry’s first fully equipped mobile laboratory. This mobile laboratory allowed SBSW to provide the same high quality technology offered at its permanent facility in Aubrey, TX to their customers throughout the country. It was equipped with a controlled rate cell freezer, a computer assisted sperm analysis (CASA) system for motility analysis and all of the equipment required to freeze semen using the standardized SBS protocols. Whit and Kathy Byers traveled extensively, sometimes up to 9 months a year, bringing SBS frozen semen services to all corners of the country and introducing the benefits of the technology to more and more stallion/mare owners.
When the SBS Affiliate Network began to take shape, with several affiliate locations throughout the United States, the mobile laboratory from SBSW was no longer required to travel for extended periods of time. Also, at the same time the American Quarter Horse and American Paint Horse Associations approved the use of frozen semen. So, though the mobile lab was not needed for long distance trips it began making shorter trips within the states of Texas and Oklahoma to satisfy the needs of the local clients but also continued to make annual trips to Wisconsin and Kentucky.
Which SBS Affiliate Labs provide Mobile Lab Services?
Currently in the United States there are four SBS mobile labs. Two of the mobile labs are based out of SBSW in Texas. The majority of their time is spent making local day trips to farms within a 50 mile radius but they also make longer (two or three week trips) to facilities in South Texas, Wisconsin and Kentucky each year You will find the current mobile lab schedule for SBSW in Texas here.
SBS in Chesapeake City, MD also has a mobile lab. Their mobile lab is used for cooled semen services during the breeding season and frozen semen services during the off breeding season. The SBS technicians travel as far north as Maine and as far south as North Carolina each year. You will find the current mobile lab schedule for SBS in Maryland here.
Oklahoma City Equine Clinic (OCEC) has a mobile laboratory which they utilize primarily for semen freezing in their local area but also for performing semen analyses and processing cooled semen as needed.
Dr. Kerstin Darenius of Caballa in Sweden has the only SBS mobile laboratory (pictured bottom right) in Europe which she established in 2006. She has traveled to England and Finland though her main territory she travels is within Sweden. However, she is willing to discuss taking the mobile lab wherever it might be needed.
Why Choose the Mobile Laboratory Service?
There are several reasons a stallion owner, manager and/or trainer may wish for their stallion to remain at “home” rather than trailer to him to a facility to process his semen for freezing.
- Stallion in Training: Taking him from his training schedule for any length of time would put him behind schedule for a particular event.
- Stress Free For Stallions: Though most stallions adapt well to new surroundings with little difficulty there is always an exception to the rule. It may be that bringing a mobile lab service to a particular stallion and leaving him at home is the best decision for his mental health. It is also a good option for older stallions or those with lameness issues who are unable to travel safely.
- Convenience: A particular facility may have a lab in which cooled semen is processed but it may not be equipped with what is needed to freeze semen. The mobile labs do not require any lab space at your facility. Once frozen the semen can either remain at your facility or be transported to the SBS Facility for storage and distribution.
- Regular Schedules: Our mobile labs visit some facilities on a regular basis. For example, the mobile labs from both SBS in Maryland and SBSW in Texas travel to Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital once or twice a year so their clients can plan their show and training schedules around the times the mobile labs are present. Dr. Andy Schmidt of the Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital said, "This mobile service allows my clients access to top notch freezing techniques and extenders while their stallions are handled and collected at our facility by veterinarians and staff which the stallions are accustomed. It also eliminates the need for our clinic to buy and maintain the equipment necessary for freezing."
- Number of stallions: Some facilities have several stallions which require semen freezing services. Thus, from a financial standpoint it makes more sense to keep their stallions at home and employ the services of the mobile lab rather than boarding them at another facility. Dr. Rogers of the Lazy E Ranch in Guthrie, OK said this of the mobile lab services provided by SBSW. “The SBSW mobile lab service assists us in our breeding program because it allows us to effectively and efficiently have frozen semen processed both immediately before and after breeding season. These are the times of year when the number of mares being bred are the lowest. Therefore, we can ship a few cooled doses and then freeze the remainder of the ejaculate. No semen goes to waste.”
- Limitations by Stakes Programs: Some states have stakes programs which limit the travel of a stallion. If there is no SBS Affiliate Lab located in their home state a stallion would have to cross state lines. If they did so they would no longer be eligible for the Stakes Program. However, the mobile lab could travel to their facility within their state to process the semen.
What Happens When the Mobile Lab Arrives at My Facility?
It is important to note the mobile lab is able to process semen at a facility as long as there is a collection shed with a phantom or a jump mare as well as knowledgeable staff able to assist in the collection process.
There are two different types of mobile lab trips. One is when the mobile lab travels to a local facility (Day Trip) within a few hours of home and will return home the same day. The other is when the mobile lab travels a long distance (Long Term Trip) and remains at a facility for several days or weeks. The type of trip is determined by the distance from the main lab and the number of stallions being processed.
Regardless of which type of trip is scheduled we ask that stallions are collected several times within the week prior to our arrival in order to deplete his stored up sperm reserves. Depletion of aged stored sperm, that do not withstand the rigors of freezing very well, typically requires at least three “clean out” collections and sometimes more depending upon the individual stallion and how frequently he has recently been bred. Some stallions have a tendency to accumulate sperm in the reproductive ducts and require many more clean outs to acquire good quality sperm. Our article, Sperm Accumulation in the Stallion, will provide additional information on this topic.
Once the mobile lab arrives it takes only a few minutes to set up the equipment and bring everything to the required temperature. We take quality control very seriously regardless of whether semen is processed in one of our mobile labs or at one of our main facilities. The article, Quality Control is at the Core of the SBS Difference, describes the measures we take to ensure the quality of the product produced in our labs.
In order to assist us in accomplishing our goals of quality control we ask for the assistance of the host farm. This includes properly washing the stallion’s penis, hygienic cleaning of the collection equipment and making sure only a small amount of lube is used during collection. An excessive amount of lube used during the collection process can have a negative effect on the quality of the semen collected.
After the mobile lab setup is complete it is time for the semen to be collected. Typically, the semen is collected by the staff at the farm. However, it may be possible for an SBS team member to collect the stallion(s) if it is discussed with an SBS team member at the time of scheduling. "The SBS team member that comes with the mobile lab is always well versed in semen collection and they have been very helpful with the collection process," said Dr. Schmidt. It is also important the semen be collected from the stallion on one mount. For more information on why this is important please see our article, Value of Collecting Semen on One Mount.
Once collected, the semen is handed to our technician for processing. After the freezing process is complete the frozen straws are placed in a storage container owned by the farm or one owned by SBS, if the semen is to return to SBS for storage and distribution. Dr. Schmidt said, "The need for extra staff and containers by our clinic to ship the semen is eliminated when the semen returns to the main SBS facility."
Can the Frozen Semen Processed in the Mobile Lab Qualify for Export?
The four SBS Mobile Laboratories located within North America are approved by the USDA as processing facilities for the export of equine frozen semen. As long as the facility in which the stallions are housed and collected is approved by the USDA for export to a specific country the frozen semen can qualify for export. Some countries have yet to draft import regulations for equine frozen semen. It is best to contact SBS to obtain the contact information for your local USDA office as some may require the mobile lab be present during the USDA inspection of your collection facility.
In the Swedish mobile lab, the frozen semen may be qualified for export if it is collected and processed at a station which is approved for export by the European Union.
Keep in mind, even if there is not a SBS Affiliate Lab in your area, it is possible one of our mobiles may travel to you. For any additional questions you may have or to help determine if the mobile lab service is right for you and your stallions please contact the SBS Affiliate Lab nearest you:
SBS in Chesapeake City, MD: info@SelectBreeders.com or (410) 885-3202
SBSW in Aubrey, TX: info@SelectBreedersSW.com or (940) 365-2467
OCEC in Oklahoma City, OK: firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 843-1099
Caballa in Sweden: email@example.com or +46 70 36 772