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How To Choose a Reproduction Vet
Dr Fiona M Lacey
Olive Grove Equine Clinic
PO Box 393, Bullsbrook 6084, WA

Introduction

Every year we have a number of new clients who are obviously shopping around for a vet to breed their mare and I am often surprised by the questions they don’t ask. Below I have listed a few points which I think every prospective client should consider prior to ‘signing up’.

Veterinary Expertise

This seems obvious but how do you know? Some questions to ask:
  • Who does the reproductive work – is it the practice owner or a seasonal vet?
    • The practice owner (or partner) provides continuity and a guaranteed level of expertise. They also are heavily invested in ensuring you get the best possible outcome as they want repeat business. A seasonal vet however, can vary in their expertise (some years good, different years, different vet, different expertise) and they generally have less invested because they know they won’t be here next year.
  • How many mares are managed through the clinic?
    • Like anything, the more you do the better you get.
  • What are their per cycle success rates?
    • A good practice should be able to give you a fairly accurate approximation of their success rates for fresh, chilled and frozen AI
  • Is reproduction their primary interest or are they a medicine, surgical and general horse clinic? Any practice whose main focus is reproduction is likely to have superior expertise and conversely, it is difficult to be really good at everything.

Facilities

Go and visit the practices in question – do they have good yards and paddocks? Will your mare be able to be turned out into a paddock if she is there for more than a few days? Is the working area clean and tidy and do the staff seem friendly and caring.
If you have a stallion to be collected is the collection area safe and enclosed (just in case something happens and he gets away)? What laboratory facilities do they have?
You are entrusting your precious mare to your veterinarian and it is important that you feel confident that she will be well looked after.

Location

This may seem of little importance but significant cost savings can be made if your mare does not need to stay at the clinic for the duration. It would be foolish to make this a deciding factor but is worth considering.


Prices

Pricing can be very confusing, particularly when packages are offered as they are not always overly clear about what is included.
For most mares a ‘per cycle’ package will be the most cost effective, it allows the vet to do as much treatment as they believe the mare needs without having to worry about the clients reaction to the bill! In my opinion, a ‘per cycle’ package should include all treatments required for that cycle (with the notable exception of Regumate as this is a rarely used and expensive drug), if it only includes a limited number of treatments or drugs you may find the cheaper package suddenly becomes a very expensive one!
I personally don’t believe a seasonal package is of benefit to the average client with one or two mares. Seasonal packages work by averaging out the total cost of work performed in the clinic across all mares. This means that ‘easy’ mares are subsidising ‘difficult’ mares. If you have many mares this could work for you as you are likely to have a spread of mares but for the single mare owner it is potentially a very unfair system.
We also believe that, as most mares in our clinic go in foal on the first cycle, it is inherently unfair for clients to pay for a whole season that they don’t need.
Fee for service charges can work if your mare will not stay for her pregnancy tests, or you are very confident she is an ‘easy breeder’ but be warned that it is very easy for a bill to get very pricey with this system. It is also difficult for you to budget your breeding costs as they can vary by many hundreds of dollars.

Communication

It is important to ask how the clinic communicates with you – do they email or phone regularly or do you need to constantly call to find out what your mare is up to. This can be a good area to listen to the experiences of your friends. Again, I wouldn’t make this a deciding factor but it is worth considering.

Conclusion
  • Do your homework and research all your options.
  • Ask your friends what their experiences have been – don’t always be swayed by their results (they may have had a difficult mare/poor semen), but do listen to their opinion on communication, facilities, professionalism and charges.
  • Make sure you clearly understand what you are getting for your money and whether there could be any extra charges.
  • Consider whether you can travel your mare for scans and location of your preferred clinic.
  • Also remember that the costs associated with getting your mare pregnant are probably the least of the costs associated with getting your foal to riding age!