Florida Vet School Equine Repro Service Hits the Road

A mobile service for equine reproduction at the University of Florida (UF) aims to better serve area horse breeders while simultaneously moving students at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine more frequently into the field.

"The approach to medicine on the road is different than in the hospital, regardless of what service you are associated with," said Scott Bailey, DVM, Dipl. ACT, a Kansas State University veterinary alumnus who recently completed his residency in theriogenology at UF's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Bailey, a board-certified reproduction specialist, spent 10 months at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky., during his residency. He hopes to expand the ambulatory service in mid-February, at the start of Thoroughbred breeding season.

"I think our students will benefit greatly from seeing how routine breeding is handled in the field, as opposed to the more advanced kinds of cases they would typically see at the UF Veterinary Medical Center," Bailey said. Because the UF VMC is primarily a referral center, a more typical horse reproduction case seen in the hospital might consist of a mare at high risk for losing a foal.

Breeding management is also not typically as intense in the field as in the hospital, where most patients are sent to address fertility problems.

"Although there are different ways to get a mare pregnant depending on the breed of the horse and the owner's wishes, field breeding management would typically involve three to five prebreeding examinations, as well as postbreeding health checks and subsequent pregnancy examinations," Bailey said.

With Thoroughbreds, a breed in which artificial insemination is prohibited, ovulation must be predicted far enough in advance to book the stallion, Bailey said. In the case of many Arabians, Quarter Horses, and warmbloods, artificial insemination with fresh or cooled semen is the preferred breeding method. The veterinarian's role would then be to examine the mare to predict ovulation, arrange for arrival of semen within 24 hours prior to ovulation, then to inseminate the mare. Post-ovulation checks are recommended to monitor the mare's uterine health and subsequent examinations would be performed throughout the horse's pregnancy.

In the case of a third breeding technique, performing artificial insemination with frozen semen, ovulation would need to be predicted within 12 hours, requiring multiple pre-breeding examinations as well as monitoring for uterine health.

"There is increasing demand in Alachua County and northward in the state for specialty services," Bailey said. "Specialty care on an ambulatory basis is much more available south of Gainesville than north of here."

He added that although many equine veterinarians offer excellent breeding management services, specialists in the area have additional expertise to offer.

Although UF used to provide an ambulatory reproduction service, in recent years the time spent on such calls has dwindled and only two university-owned farms are presently served.

"The logistics of these types of services are not always easy, and being on the road is difficult for our tenure-track faculty due to other responsibilities. At the same time horse owners expect veterinarians to be available on demand," Bailey said.

As a clinical instructor, Bailey says he has the interest and flexibility to make a mobile reproduction service work.

"I'm pretty excited about it," he said. "The No. 1 complaint we hear from students has been that there is a lack of real-world experience at the university--at any university. I think our students will benefit from obtaining a more varied view of how veterinary practice is conducted in the field."

No additional overhead costs were needed to begin the program, since UF already owns the needed vehicles and medical equipment, Bailey said.

"What will happen is that students who are on their two-week theriogenology rotation will spend an entire week going out to private farms on the ambulatory service versus going to the UF-owned Horse Research Center only a few times," Bailey said.

He hopes to enlist a handful of farms with 15 to 20 mares that the service could visit regularly throughout the horse breeding season, but says he won't limit the service if he received requests from farms with fewer horses.

Anyone seeking more information about the mobile equine reproduction program should contact Bailey at 352/392-2229.

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