Sponsors of the EquiBreed Top Ranking Jumping Mare
Sponsors of the Equibreed and VDL Leading Jumping Stallion
EquiBreed’s Dr Lee Morris lets her babies do the talking and they certainly make some statement.
She’s had a hand in many champions, including the likes of Olympians Fiber Fresh Popeye and Balmoral Sensation, as well as other top horses like Olympic Cup winner Fiber Fresh Veroana and the well-performed MVSH McCaw, Dunstan Springfield, Takapoto Estina and others.
Dr Lee Morris working with Cufflink, ‘making’ Popeye
She talks about them all as if they are her own, so invested is she in producing the very best for New Zealand. The Waikato based specialist equine reproductive company is always at the cutting edge of technology and well recognised as one of Australasia’s best.
The latest addition to their services is stallion semen extender, the process of which was developed by EquiBreed’s former PhD student Dr Zamira Gibb. Lee says it will revolutionise the shipping of chilled semen allowing semen to be shipped by post at room temperature instead of having to use costly air freight options. Using this semen extender you will only have to collect semen from your stallion once a week!
Things have come a long way since Lee first arrived in New Zealand in 2002. “Back then everyone was afraid of frozen semen because New Zealand vets didn’t have the training to use it,” she says. “One reported a 19% per cycle pregnancy rate – and that was one of the good ones. Now we are freezing embryos from frozen semen inseminations and getting a 73% pregnancy rate.”
In 2019 the company made history with the birth of New Zealand’s first foal produced by an in vitro fertility treatment using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). At the time, Lee called it a watershed moment both for her company and the nation . . . but there is so much more to come from this unassuming business.
“Thanks to ICSI, there have been lots of foals born this season including two for breeder Janene Maxwell from the stallion Brilliant Invader who died 20-odd years ago.”
ICSI is similar to that used in humans and involves recovering eggs from the mare’s ovaries while she is sedated. The eggs are then cultured in the lab until they are ready for fertilisation when a tiny amount of semen is washed and a single sperm cell selected for injection into each egg. The resulting embryos are cultured for 8-10 days in the lab before being transferred to a surrogate mare or frozen for future use.
ICSI, which is done extensively in the United States and Europe, has opened up a whole new world for New Zealand breeders. We have even been able to use ICSI to create pregnancies from mares that have died unexpectedly or from stallions with only one straw of semen left.
“The world really is your oyster now when it comes to breeding,” says Lee. “If you can dream it, then it probably can happen.”
The EquiBreed team are all so passionate about what they do and get a real kick of watching ‘their’ babies progress through the ranks.
“For us, it is a combination of biology and making dreams a reality,” says Lee. “It is such a long journey and we are lucky to be involved right at the very beginning.”
Their research programme is really a tribute to Lee’s inspiring mentor, Prof Twink Allen, who sadly passed away last year. Lee is passionate about research and development of technologies to help breeders. The EquiBreed research programme focuses on improving the fertility of embryo transfer programmes, genetic salvage from post mortem samples, epididymal sperm freezing at the time of castration, unblocking oviducts, stem cell treatments for lameness, stallion nutrition and fertility, placentitis treatments, foal drench resistance, low dose insemination, sex-sorted semen and so much more.
It’s all about bringing the best in the world to New Zealand to make sure Kiwi breeders have access to the latest technologies, so that no kiwi is left behind!
Dr Lee Morris being inspired by Professor Twink Allen
For more information, head to www.equibreed.co.nz