Blog Anna: breeding challenges……

There should have been lots of foals born on the farm by now wouldn’t you say? From the time Ylse came to PEI in 2005 till now.. Well.. nothing is further from the truth. It wasn’t Ylse. She has never been sick, is an excellent mom and always caught first try with fresh cooled semen. Because there was not one approved stallion in all of Canada for the longest time,(now we have Tonjes 459) the only options for Ylse to have a main book foal was to import fresh cooled semen from the USA or to use frozen semen imported from the Netherlands.

We are located in PEI (Canada’s smallest province, about 7 times smaller than the Netherlands).

If you look closely on the map you see in the lower right corner Charlottetown. This is the capital of PEI. We are connected by a 14 km long bridge (since 1997) to the mainland.

I never pursued using fresh cooled semen from the USA. For two reasons, our location and the cost involved. In order to get fresh cooled from the USA, I can’t simply tell the stallion owner to Fed Ex it here overnight. Because the semen has to cross the border, it needs to comply with a lot of requirements from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the CFIA. They can fly the semen to the closest international airport with a CFIA inspector (Montreal, Quebec (1,125Km)). Reason being it needs to be inspected at point of entry by the CFIA. I would have to hire a broker to collect it at the airport and take it to the CFIA inspector and then put it on a plane to Charlottetown, PEI. Or fly to Montreal myself.. This is not only too time consuming, it’s also too expensive. The other option most breeders in this area use is driving to Bangor, Maine and go to the Fed Ex office there, take it over the border yourself with the appropriate documents. Doable right? Get your import permit, drive to Bangor (6 hours) drive back (6 hours) and have mare bred. Easy peasy. Not really.. when you work full time on a dairy farm and have small children at home who depend on you. Let alone the risk of bridge closure with high winds or bad weather in general. I’m not the kind of driver who lasts that long behind the wheel anyway.

Frozen it is!

Next option: Frozen!! Just get the stuff here and go! That sounds a whole lot better!!
Getting the stuff here..equals another story.. Go back to 2006.. I’m all excited, Ylse had a beautiful colt by Mintse 384 the year before, and I’m hoping for more foals! I explored the fresh cooled from the USA and figured, nope that’s not doable, frozen it is!
Erik went to visit family in the Netherlands so he could easily take a dry shipper and come back with some frozen. At that time you were able to take a dry shipper on the plane as odd luggage and after some questions at Schiphol customs, the dry shipper was allowed on the plane. At the port of entry, (Toronto, Ontario) Erik met with the CFIA inspector as planned, to inspect the shipment and required documents. This was planned in the layover time, before boarding the next plane to PEI. I guess it was not our lucky day. The inspector went over the paper work and noticed that the number of straws was missing on the documents.

Dump in the trash

They sure weren’t missing on the bill, but, that didn’t matter. I had to find and contact the very same person in the Netherlands from the NWA (Dutch CFIA) who had signed off on the quality of the semen to redo the paper work. Meanwhile Erik needs to catch his connecting flight!! It’s no use trying to get this information in an hour or two, just not going to happen. Erik has had enough and tells the CFIA agent to dump the stuff in the trash. That goes a bit too far he says. He can hold on to it until we fax the right paperwork. The next day after that’s all cleared up, the CFIA agent is kind enough to put it on a Fed Ex plane for us and I can pick it up in Charlottetown. Pfeww. In hind sight.. he could have dumped it in the trash, it would have saved a lot of time, frustration and money as we never got a foal out of those semen batches, nor other frozen semen we imported later. The semen did survive the ordeal, but still with all the information about breeding with frozen semen gathered, we have never been successful obtaining one single pregnancy from 4 different stallions in 9 breeding’s by 3 different vets.. In all of Atlantic Canada up to today, only one foal has been born from frozen semen (Feitse 293).

I didn’t breed BBook for fun

So what options are left? I did want a purebred foal from Ylse.. Our last option is breeding to a nice foalbook stallion, Vromme (Arjen 417 x Oege 267) in the area. By him she had a lovely BBook II filly and three years later a nice colt. BBook II horses are heavily frowned upon by some NA breeders. If they only knew.. I didn’t breed a BBook for fun!! Ylse her filly Vittoria was sold and ended up at a very nice family in Ontario. They love everything about her, especially her good mind! They vacation on PEI every summer, and came to meet Ylse and me.

Ylse en Ezra ( Vromme ) March 2017

Another road trip for Ylse

If you would breed Vittoria, what stallion would you pick? they asked.
Thorben 466 I said. He will give the refinement needed, and provide a foal with a powerful hind leg. Just overall a good match. You should have Ylse bred as well, they said. What an opportunity! But I just imported a mare, so couldn’t pull it off financially. It was also a bit risky at the age of 20. Ylse is strong but that is quite the trip! We ended up agreeing on a breeding lease. Ylse hopped on the trailer to Ontario in March (1,750Km) and stayed with Vittoria’s owners for a month. They then trailered both mares to Rockton, Illinois USA (950Km) It paid off!! Last summer both girls had beautiful Thorben 466 fillies!

Ylse and Mathilde (Thorben 466)
Vittoria (Vromme) and Moaie Moed (Thorben 466)

Other blogs:

First Friesian mare in PEI, Canada

From living to working in Canada

Memories of my youth with Friesian horses