Question of the Week
Maggie Mott and Sally Simmonds
Livingston Manor, New York
Heavens, yes ... and many, many more! We have for many years worked successfully with some wonderful repro vets and centers in preserving semen from some top-notch producers in our breed along with successfully importing and exporting semen to a number of countries around the world. While striving to consistently produce quality individuals, we find it particularly satisfying to produce and evaluate puppies from sires of long ago. On the longevity count, at our recent national-specialty weekend, two of our linebred litter sisters produced from 23-year-old frozen semen scored Best of Breed and Best of Winners at the regional specialty, while another puppy of ours was the National Futurity and Puppy Sweepstakes winner, and she is a product of a great-grandsire to a great-granddaughter using 20-year-old frozen semen. Back to the future … LOVE IT!
In 1985, Bob Herd Ill was experimenting with freezing dog semen. He worked at ABS (collecting bull semen). He asked me if I could bring him some males to collect. Over a few months I took six different males to him. I watched him put the semen in a board where he had made tiny holes in it to freeze the semen. When frozen, he picked the droplets up with a tweezers and put them in an ordinary soda straw that was closed on the bottom, and when full he closed the top. Then he wrote the AKC number and registered name on each straw and put it in his tank of liquid nitrogen. I expected he would be checking over time to see how the semen was doing. Bob died in 2003, and Dr. Marty Greer purchased his equipment. In the storage tank she found the semen of my dogs. She recognized the kennel name and contacted me to see if I wanted it. Of course, I did. She checked the semen and was able to divide some straws into more than one breeding. And she was also able to get it approved by AKC because the AKC name and numbers were on the soda straws. I have had several litters from this old semen and just this past year I sold a breeding unit from the 1985 collection to another breeder, and she had 15 puppies from it.
Over the years I have collected most of my champion males. I learned that it is advantageous to collect them young (as soon as I get OFA hip clearances), as you get more breedings per collection. Unfortunately, the cost of doing progesterones on the bitch and the implant of the semen has become so expensive that most breeders do not want to spend the money. I hope AKC or the parent clubs will start semen banks so that valuable semen will not be destroyed when the owner dies and those in charge of the estate have no idea what to do with it.
We collected and stored three boys for a while. We used one once, glowing evaluations, recommended procedures, etc., etc. – one puppy. We heard only of extremely limited success from other Miniature Schnauzer people, though big litters in some other breeds. So with the continuing cost of storage, we eventually made the decision to thaw. Wish it had worked better, wish I could bring back the past – but the 12½-year-old sitting on my lap hoping for another bite of fresh cherries was our last.
Mill Neck, New York
(Owner of Grandeur-bred Afghan Hounds since 1961 to present; Grandeur kennel manager for 25 years)
Grandeur was established in 1941, and the founder, Miss Sunny Shay, had some old-school principles on breeding dogs naturally. Back then there were no scientific options to use … you bred to what was available, and most wouldn’t breed to a dog without seeing it and knowing full well what the temperament was behind them. In the ’70s we did do AIs when an older male’s libido started to wane for a natural breeding. We did start collecting males in the early ’80s and have semen on every male retained since. Many litters were produced with frozen semen. For a line intensely inbred over the years, the basic practices identify line breeding, inbreeding and outcrosses … I have now coined the term “back breeding,” and we need to research how that impacts the new(er) technology of having the ability to “Go Back!”
In closing: I know many master breeders across many breeds who have gone backward, and their results are outstanding. A word of caution … and sometimes a surprise to those impacted … there are now ways to extend and divide frozen semen, and when one sells it, be aware that more than one breeding can result from that sale, and solid agreements need to be in place at the time of the exchange.
Fort White, Florida
I have many of my dogs collected. The one that is most impressive is a breeding done in 2008. I still have a living dog from the litter, which was collected in 1982 from the all-time top Bullmastiff bred from our line, Ch. Bandog’s Crawdaddy Gumbo (Waldo). We got three males from the litter; all became champions. They were born on August 9, 2010.
I have been collecting frozen semen on my American Staffordshire Terrier legacy bloodline of Sierra Staff prefix stud dogs. My frozen semen storage collection process journey began over 30 years ago.
I cleverly have diversified semen in three different storage facilities across the USA. The old saying applies, "Do not put all your eggs in one basket.”
In the early years, many breeders did not trust this newly offered canine husbandry science. Others simply could not justify the economic impact of upfront cost for initial collection, processing and future storage that may possibly economically encumber the breeder due to skepticism of future viability. Many breeders also questioned their own dedication, longevity or future commitment with their primary breed. Recently, I released 29-plus-year semen from storage that produced a litter of nine puppies. It appears that the technology of frozen-semen storage was ahead of its time, but the technology of successful use by implementation has taken many decades to realize equal success in conception rates. The economic burden of breed preservation was never intended for the weak of heart.
Mark Francis Jaeger
We have only collected our national-specialty-winning stud dogs. The oldest we have used was a decade old.
I started freezing semen from two of my German Shepherd Dogs in 1991 and 1992. That semen has been used successfully a number of times over the years, as recently as eight months ago. I am very grateful for the science that enables us to reach back to dogs that were for one reason or another very important to me. It provides, among other things, the opportunity to see what those dogs produced in terms of health and longevity, unlike the short span of most live dogs’ breeding careers.
Laura Lynn Coomes
We are blessed to have three different litters from sperm stored over 24 years ago. One being shown now is in the top five for his breed, too.
I have collected and frozen/stored six stud dogs over the last 40 years. The one I used recently was stored for 12 years and resulted in seven lovely Whippet puppies. I am breeding the choice champion bitch from this litter in a few days to frozen semen from a dual-titled dog from Sweden that I was honored to judge in Italy at the Whippet World Congress this May.
Lydia Coleman Hutchinson
Yes, I have collected five of my stud dogs over many years, but I decided not to continue doing so in recent years since I am the only one using it. In two cases of using it, the resulting litters were excellent, but I've also had several times when the bitches did not conceive. It's an expensive venture, that's for sure.
I have semen stored on approximately 10 dogs. The "oldest" was collected and stored in 2004.
Woodstock, New York
Yes, I have collected many of my Basenjis. Dr. Ann Huntington is a miraculous repro vet in Enfield, Connecticut.
We used semen collected in 2006 six years ago (so, stored almost 10 years). Dr. Huntington smiled as she showed me the active thawed sperm. She only does frozen-semen implants, and all have been successful.
New York, New York
I have been collecting semen on my stud dogs for years. The longest in storage is 21 years, and I used it recently and got a litter of seven.
I have great concern about semen storage, as there are fewer and fewer clinics that offer it. I just had to move all my semen storage to another clinic as the vet retired and sold the practice, and the new owners had NO interest in continuing the storage facility.
When I ask new interns and residents at AMC at their white-coat ceremony each year none – and I mean NONE – took a course in repro! It is an elective course and holds little interest and doesn’t bring in a lot of money. This is a sad state of affairs, and I question how us breeders are going to survive and continue our breeding programs!
Bluffton, South Carolina
Yes. I collected my foundation dog once his hips were OFA-ed Excellent and he was a champion at two years. He started producing from his first litter, and continued to be collected for years, started in 1998.
I had no idea what a marvelous champion producer he would become, but his sperm count was over 2 billion, so he provided many breeding units from one collection.
Recently the Irish Setter Club of America showed the Top Ten Ch Producers in history of our breed, and my boy is number six! I still have many breeding units, and we used his frozen semen two years ago.
IMHO, breeders should encourage their dog owners to collect quality dogs. We need to protect our lines, and collect semen from the outstanding dogs we own or bred.
Lexington, South Carolina
Yes, I do! Any dog that I think may be of use in my breeding program is collected and frozen. I regret not doing it earlier, as I have three past dogs that I would dearly love to use right now! Better to be safe than sorry.