Hurkmans: ‘Better buy a pregnancy than a frozen embryo’ (part 3)

Horse Auctions Europe has so much to talk about with Hans Hurkmans, specialist in embryo’s from horses and cows and their implantation. We have a number of questions from daily practice, the answer to which can not be found on the internet. Is it wise, for example, to buy a ‘frozen embryo’ in an auction?



1.    Rumour has it that in the past few months there has been a shortage of recipient mares. Did you encounter this problem and how did you cope with it?

“You are right, because last year an incredible number of embryos were created by ICSI. All these embryos have to be implanted in a recipient mare and everyone is in a hurry to do so. This caused a run on recipient mares. We anticipate this by buying surrogate mares already now. Which means that the embryos can be implanted in February/March.”


2.     My mare has ovulated twice and can, theoretically, produce two embryos when flushed, but there is no second recipient mare available. Can the second embryo be frozen and used to be implanted next year? What will in that case be the success percentage upon implantation compared to a non-frozen ICSI-embryo? 

‘’There is no problem freezing the second embryo and implanting it one year later. We would flush a little earlier than usual, so that the embryo can be better frozen. For flushed embryo’s and ICSI-embryo’s which are transplanted fresh the success percentage is about 80%. The moment you start freezing them, the success percentage will drop to 65%. The bigger the embryo, the more vulnerable it is. When you transplant a fresh embryo, the size does not matter, but when you want to freeze it, it’s more difficult with the bigger embryos.”


3.    There are successful embryo auctions by now of foals that only have to be born. But they also offer ‘frozen embryo’s’ that still have to be implanted in a mare. Is that not a very big investment risk? 

‘’When you buy an embryo, you can arrange that you will pay as soon as the mare is in foal. When you buy a ‘frozen embryo’, you can probably get it for less money, but the risk is higher. The moment you buy a pregnancy, you can insure it. You can not insure a ‘frozen embryo’. My advice would be to go for buying a pregnancy instead of a ‘frozen embryo’. When you insure the pregnancy, the buying risk is not that high with probable better returns than buying a ‘frozen embryo’.” 


4.    If I would want to bid for a ‘frozen embryo’, what is important to know? 

“Make sure you buy a first quality embryo. This is often specified on an auction website. Such embryos come from a reputable company which you know that can handle the technique to freeze embryo’s. You also need a vet that can defrost and implant embryos. I would also recommend to gather information beforehand about where the embryo is stored. If the embryo was created at an EU-recognized location, the embryo will have the right papers and is easy to transport. Embryo’s stored privately in a container, are not EU-valid and you can not export them officially.”


5.     Is it wise to buy frozen sperm in an auction? 

‘’You can do that, but make sure that the sperm is kept in an EU-storage facility and does not come from just someone who has kept it in a container himself. Then you will have no control of and no guarantee for the quality of the sperm. You can not be sure that the sperm has not been defrosted and then frozen again. You only know that when you cut the straw and defrost it. Always make an arrangement that you get your money back if the sperm is not alright, which will separate some of the chaff from the corn. When you buy sperm directly from the stallion owner, you may assume that it is good sperm and that you can complain if it turns out to be bad. When you buy sperm from a dealer, it is more difficult to lodge a complaint, for you do not know exactly where the sperm has come from.”


 Publishing this article is allowed including source: www.horseauctions.eu / Wendy Scholten