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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

The ICSI Foals

Tuesday, September 19 2017

four people with four horses

What is an ICSI foal? ICSI refers to a special conception procedure now commercially available for mares. It’s a procedure offered in part at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences Ranch.

“One of the procedures we offer is called transvaginal aspiration of oocytes from mare ovaries,” explained Dr. Candace Lyman, assistant professor in the Center’s theriogenology section. “We aspirate oocytes or eggs from the mare’s ovary. Then we partner with laboratories where we send those eggs. They perform intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI. ICSI is where a stallion’s spermatozoa is taken and injected directly into the egg from the donor mare. The egg and sperm are then cultured by way of what’s called ‘in vitro incubation’ or maturation of an embryo. Once that embryo develops to be a seven- or eight-day embryo, it is transferred to a recipient mare or a surrogate mare who then carries that pregnancy and gives birth to that foal.

“I was extremely excited to meet the Dufurs and their mare, Takin Love that came to our facility in need of this service” continued Lyman. “They were one of the very first clients who allowed us to provide this service for them. They had two foals this year as a result of this procedure.”

Alan and Teri Dufur own Dufur Quarter Horses in Caddo, Okla., where they raise 600+ registered Hereford cattle and 450+ registered quarter horses.

“The aspiration of the eggs for any mare is a process that gives your mare the ability to have more than one baby a year and can extend her ability to have babies longer,” stated Teri. “We decided that we would use OSU to take eggs out of this mare so we could possibly get more than one baby because she’s a really nice mare. And it’s the only way we could breed her to Frenchman’s Guy. Frenchman’s Guy is probably the most well-known stallion and has won the most money than any stallion in the barrel racing world.”

Because Frenchman’s Guy is an older stallion, his owners put semen at certain universities for breeding purposes. Colorado State was one of the universities and the one OSU provided the oocytes to so that they could perform the ICSI procedure on Takin Love’s eggs.

“Colorado State had the semen and they have their own recip (recipient) herd,” added Dufur. “It was the easiest thing for us because then we didn’t have to worry about shipping the egg and then shipping the inseminated egg back. They did it and in the process we got two eggs (embryos) and have two wonderful babies.”

One foal was born March 12, 2017, and the other was born March 14, 2017.

“Because the mare was a race mare and the dad is a barrel racing stallion, we’re hoping they become barrel horses,” said Dufur. “We will hopefully put them in the futurities when they are 3 and then train them to go into the rodeo world. We have the ability and the trainers here that also do team roping, calf roping, steer wrestling. So we can train them to go in many directions.”

In addition to ICSI, OSU’s Ranch offers horse owners other services.

“We receive cases from clients that are just normal mares that are happy, healthy mares that simply need to be artificially inseminated to get pregnant,” said Lyman. “We also have mares that come to us that have more intense needs as far as case management. They’ve had some fertility issues previously or they need to have some higher maintenance cycle management performed on them in order for them to get pregnant.”

And once those mares are pregnant, OSU’s Ranch can assist when it comes time to foal.

“The mares will come to us when they are heavy pregnant,” continued Lyman. “They will be monitored by students, house officers and theriogenologists. When they are ready to foal they will go into stalls where they are under camera watch and 24/7 monitoring by students and house officers until the mares give birth.”

If you would like more information to see if any of the procedures offered at OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences Ranch, including ICSI, would be beneficial for your breeding program, please contact the Ranch at (405) 649-2504 or visit the ranch webpage.