Zabeel Set For 2007 Season

18 Mar 2007

A cutting-edge stallion fertility programme has resurrected the stud career of champion New Zealand stallion Zabeel.

Details of the programme are being announced to the Sunday Star Times for the first time today after a confidentiality agreement previously excluded any public information on the project.

Last spring Zabeel experienced serious fertility problems which placed his future at stud in serious doubt.

"In the first six weeks of the 2006 breeding season he (Zabeel) only managed to get six mares in foal," said Sir Patrick Hogan of Cambridge Stud.

"I advised broodmare owners at the time that Zabeel was having problems getting mares in foal," said Sir Patrick. As a result of this 20 mares were transferred to other stallions."

In trying to come up with a solution Sir Patrick turned to Cambridge Stud's veterinarian Dr Jonathan Hope who shared his vision that absolutely everything had to be done in order to try to find a solution.

"I said to Jonathan that I didn't want to die wondering whether there was anything we could have done to help Zabeel," Sir Patrick said.

Hope consulted a number of experts in the field of stallion fertility around the world.

In particular he closely laiased with American stallion behaviour and fertility researcher Dr Sue McDonnell of the New Bolton centre in Pennsylvania and also Hamilton-based Ambreed semen centre personnel.

Hope said one of the keys to the programme was making Zabeel believe it was summer-like because generally as the weather improves so does a stallion's fertility.

Features of the programme included:

  • Putting Zabeel under lights in his box for 16 hours a day.

  • Placing Zabeel in a controlled temperature environment more akin to mid-summer temperatures.

  • Injecting Zabeel as close as possible prior to ejaculation with oxytocin, a natural hormone that causes the stallion's semen storage gland to contract. This increases the volume of semen and also the sperm number produced at service.

  • Scanning every mare after serving to ensure the maximum volume of semen was left in the uterus to improve the prospect of pregnancy.

  • Infusing any remaining semen in the vagina after service into the uterus.

"All of these features are aimed at increasing the number of viable sperm available to fertilise the mare's egg," Hope said.

The success of the programme was measured by the fact that Zabeel incredibly ended up getting 101 mares with positive 42-day positive pregnancy tests. The majority of these came after the programme was implemented on October 14.

"The results of the programme were far beyond any expectations we might have had," "The turnaround in Zabeel's fertility occurred to the day of implementation of this programme," Hope said."We consider that this programme will bring many changes in attitudes of studmasters in the in the way they treat stallions who do have fertility issues," he said.

Sir Patrick is now confident Zabeel will be able to once again serve a full book of mares this year with his fee remaining at $100,000 plus gst.

His book will be restricted to 110 mares.

"It is very significant for the New Zealand breeding industry that Zabeel will once again be available to broodmare owners who can have their faith restored in his ability to get mares in foal," said Sir Patrick.

The programme will be re-implemented on Zabeel much earlier this coming season to and already Sir Patrick is making plans for an air-conditioning unit to be installed in his box.

Zabeel's latest major successes came when Gallic won the Group 2 Adelaide Cup last Monday and Ritzy Lady won the Listed NZ St Leger on Saturday.