It’s fitting for EquiBreed NZ director Dr Lee Morris to look back with pride on a decade of success that continues to keep New Zealand at the forefront of breeding technology.
Their long list of firsts is impressive by anyone’s standards. In the 10 years since Lee has owned EquiBreed the team has bred more than 3000 horses – 97% of those using frozen semen.
“All of the technology – I find intellectually challenging and exciting, but most importantly it provides opportunities for our breeders,” says Lee. “New Zealand’s geographical isolation means these new technologies suit us even more than in Europe and the United States, and allow us to produce the most competitive bloodlines . . . this technology just makes it all possible.”
The achievements of Lee and her team place them right up alongside the best in the world and she often publishes peer review papers on their work. Not one to sit on her laurels, Lee is constantly looking to push the boundaries
Always looking for more and better ways to produce foals for her breeders, EquiBreed has been the first in New Zealand to …
- produce a foal by epididymal sperm – supported by NZ Equine Research Foundation (NZERF) – using semen recovered from colts’ testicles when they’re gelded.
- do hysteroscopic low dose insemination meaning they can use as little as one eighth of a dose of frozen semen.
- produce foals by sex sorted semen – which is popular with polo breeders.
- unblock fallopian tubes in mares using a laparoscopic keyhole method and has since trained other vet clinics to do the same.
- produce foals from frozen embryos and freeze bigger embryos which enables better embryo recovery rates, breeding after HOY and even provide embryos for sale.
- produce pregnancies from injecting a single egg with a single sperm by injection (ICSI).
Lee calls the ICSI achievement the ultimate, but there is always more to come…. “That would be to freeze the unfertilized egg to use later for ICSI – in humans that has a success rate of more than 90% but with horses it is less than 20% successful. So to achieve that would be incredible for NZ”
EquiBreed and VDL Stud have co-sponsored the leading mare and stallion prizes for ESNZ Jumping for over a decade. This continued sponsorship has produced top horses like Popeye (by Cardento VDL) and Corlinka (by Corland VDL).
And while reproduction is their thing, EquiBreed is also involved in so much more. With support from the NZERF, they were the first in New Zealand to study and culture stem cells for lameness treatments in horses. More recently Lee has also recently published an important paper in an international journal on drench resistance in foals.
She is constantly in demand as a speaker, having presented their research results at international conferences in the UK, Europe, Australia, the United States and South Africa. South America is about to join that list too.
Lee is quick to share the success of EquiBreed, praising her team who are all so personally invested in all they do, along with her “amazing” husband who keeps their farm in order and lets her work crazy hours, along with her little wingman, her son Toby who has been there to be part of New Zealand equine history a number of times.
“We are so driven by that bigger picture,” says Lee. “We want to put New Zealand on the world stage. Now there is no reason why we can’t have the same genetics as everyone else in the world. Everything is that one step closer…..our new motto is “EquiBreed NZ, It is possible.”
For more information, head to www.equibreed.co.nz