Miner Institute has been conducting research to improve the preservation of stallion semen since the late 1980s. Studies have been conducted in collaboration with the University of Vermont and the UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, VT. The pooling of stallion resources has provided a unique opportunity to focus on developing techniques to improve the storage of stallion semen for overnight shipping cooled to 5°C or frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196°C. Once frozen at this cold temperature, the fertility of the semen will not change and will be viable indefinitely. Straws of semen frozen in 1991 were recently thawed with post-thaw motilities unchanged over 15 years of storage.
Miner Institute, in collaboration with Texas A&M, is evaluating the effect of shipping follicular aspirations (from ovaries) on the subsequent in vitro maturation and fertilization of horse oocytes (eggs). Traveling to Quebec, we are able to acquire ovaries from an abbatoir, harvest the eggs, and ship overnight to Texas A&M where they are cultured and fertilized in vitro. The successful development of shipping techniques which protect the quality and integrity of the oocytes will allow horse owners in the future to preserve a valuable mare’s genetics if she should have an untimely death.
A hot topic in equine nutrition has been the evaluation of non structural carbohydrates in the diet and their relationship with a condition in horses that is similar to diabetes in people. When insulin does not function properly, blood levels of glucose become elevated which may predispose the animal to various metabolic disorders. The Morgan breed has a relatively high incidence of these disorders which makes them a great model to evaluate diets which will help minimize swings in blood glucose levels.
Miner Institute’s herd of Morgan horses, qualified staff and outstanding facilities has attracted research collaborations with leaders in this field of study at Virginia Tech, University of Limerick, Penn State and Cornell University. Horse diets with varying levels of non structural carbohydrates in the forages (hay or pasture) are carefully monitored and blood parameters are measured to determine the impact of diet on the horse’s glycemic response or the measure of the feed’s ability to elevate blood glucose.
Future studies will utilize the forage laboratory at Miner Institute to determine which individual sugars in the forages may be responsible for elevated blood glucose. Characterization of these forages may prove to be a valuable tool for horse owners managing horses with equine metabolic diseases.