Mostly I try to stay light and not delve too much into the actual politics of the reproduction world. Today I changed my mind. A couple of years ago, I collected, analyzed and froze some semen. The post thaw recovery was noted on the paperwork as 70%. That means that 70% of the semen was viable and considered motile semen to be calculated in as usable.
About a month ago a woman decided she wanted to use it. It was packaged and shipped to her vet. At the time of the breeding the semen was thawed and the veterinarian said the semen was all dead. The client called us and drove to our clinic to pick up another vial. At the time she arrived, the next vial was prepared and ready for her to take it to her vet clinic. I met her at the door and asked her, if she would mind if we could thaw a pellet together, and I could show her what she should expect to see when she took it to the clinic that had previously said it was dead. I placed the thaw media into a small tube, dropped a pellet in and agitated it. I had a warm slide placed on a slide warmer. I drew up a small amount of the thawed semen with a glass pipette, placed a drop on the warm slide. I placed a cover slip upon that and moved the slide over to the microscope. Our microscope has a camera attached to it, so that we may show the client their semen on a monitor above our microscope. (If you have ever been to my office you know that we are very basic and do not have a lot of high tech monitors or technology. There is literally a monitor cord that you plug in to the top of the microscope so that it feeds the image to the screen. ) The semen woke up well. Not as expected. BETTER. At least 75%, the client was thrilled. She agreed to not mention that she had seen the thaw, and just let her vet do the thaw and see what she said. She proceeded to take it to her veterinarian.
THE EXACT SAME SEMEN, identical to what I had just pulled a pellet from, the vet thawed it out and announced that the semen was less than 20%, not worth using. The client then asked how that could be? They had just seen it thawed right before their eyes…the answer enrages me. She was told by, who is touted as being one of the best, “Reproduction Specialist” in Oregon, that I lied. She said I was filtering it in somewhere remotely from another microscope to appear on the monitor. That that was not the same semen. I was lying.
I am telling this story for a few reasons. This well known reproduction specialist in Oregon has chronically been telling others that the semen we ship is poor. We have even known the clinic to breed with the semen that we froze on days that would be too early based on progesterone readings and then breeding with other semen on the right days and of course the semen we froze did not take. This has not happened only once. Our clients have come back to tell us a few times about that, as well as all the usually bad mouthing of our facility.
Why? All we can figure is this. We work about 1 hour from the clinic she works at and charge about a quarter of what they do. Our success rate is 93% at the clinic we do surgical inseminations at and in the 80th percentile for vaginal inseminations success. We are competition. With a professor directing our facility with over 40 years of experience,who pioneered the research of freezing canine semen and set the standards in the canine frozen semen industry for the world, me with 10 years of collecting and freezing and training centers worldwide, another employee with almost 20 years of experience in the management of semen in this industry, we offer ALOT more experience than what we could learned in an extra few years of veterinary school. We have nothing to gain, by freezing poor quality semen. This is ALL that we do, we don’t look at teeth, or anal glands or do amazing life saving procedures for all sorts of animals…WE JUST DO CANINE REPRODUCTION…that’s it. Once the semen is in the bitch, she is no longer our follow up. Semen is our life.
This time it was personal to me. This isn’t an easy job and it requires a lot of hand work, patience, experience and down right dedication to making sure everything is done meticulously right. There is so much pride taken to insure that what I freeze and store is looked at in high regard, that I will often actually record a very conservative recovery rate, (as that semen showed). I will package it as if it is 70% even if it is at 75% or 80%. If I think the semen looks poor, I’ll tell someone not to freeze it. We lose money, but we don’t care, that has never been the point. You can’t hide bad semen. I consistently teach this to EVERY center that opens under our name. I am picky about how it is done. I don’t get anything for doing it right or better than right. It’s about pride and that is what has been instilled in the quality of the place where I work. I thrive on that kind of environment. I’m not the kind of person that can represent what I don’t believe in. Beings I have done and still do about 75% of the last 8 years of collections and freezes. It matters to me.
So I share this, because I just want everyone to be aware that a title can not always define experience. A degree on the wall, while I am the first to respect it, does not mean that years of research and experience just breeding dogs, freezing and handling semen should not be valued just as much. Everyone at our company holds a degree of some sort, by the way, just not a veterinary degree. The professor actually used to teach veterinarians. (Most veterinary programs do not cover the canine reproduction as in depth as we teach veterinarians when they open a center.) That degree however does not always represent ones character or integrity though or experience for that matter. Maybe this reproduction specialist did get 20%…but, did she read the directions? Was she willing to read the directions? Was it thawed exactly as I did it, with the thaw media provided…which is in the directions? Must not have. What was to gain by reporting the semen to be useless. Hard to say.
That client just threw away the last vial of semen on her dead dog and paid that veterinarian $1000 to do it.
This particular veterinarian has proven to be a nasty competitor and has received some high regards by placing herself in Theriogenology forums and groups. Even going so far as to tell people that semen typically never thaws back at how it is written down. I say…
“YOU AREN’T THAWING IT PROPERLY! THE COMPANY YOU FREEZE FOR ISN’T FREEZING WITH OUR METHODS or YOU AREN’T THAWING WHAT I OR MY COMPANY FROZE THEN!”
If I sound prideful, I am. I am proud of the people I train, and they deserve the decency of the community that is receiving the semen to not be called liars in order to protect their reputations if the receiver can’t hedge their bets. Those who chose to use us have often done a lot of research and came to us, because of our long standing good reputation. When I receive semen to do an insemination that may look a little low on the recovery…after reading the directions and thawing it, WITH THE THAW MEDIA INCLUDED, NOT WITH SOMETHING I THINK WILL WORK BETTER. I will assume that the company that was hired to freeze the semen packaged the semen to compensate for any loss that would occur at thawing. It is not my place to judge or ridicule the semen or where it came from. Know who you are freezing semen with and if you trust them enough to save your irreplaceable semen for decades, then give them the benefit of the doubt. THE THAWING PROCESS IS THE MOST CRITICAL TIME IN FROZEN SEMENS LIFE!
Ok, there I’m done. If you find a place consistently smack talking a business that has 40 almost 50 years of consistent honors in the business, you might think about what you are doing there. Reproduction Specialist or not, if they lack the experience, or collecting, freezing and inseminating thousands of dogs every year, then they probably need to assess if their procedures are consistently in line with the directions. This isn’t an add on class or degree for us, this is all we do! Sometimes semen might not come back well, but I would say 99 out of 100 times, the semen I have seen questioned, is checked and thaws perfectly to the recovery rate that is listed.
Please just know these politics are happening out there and it’s your money that is being used in the game. Most the time it isn’t, and there are 10 times as many amazing, competent veterinarians out there as there are not, just be aware that this is not the ONLY situation like this we have dealt with, and we hear about it throughout the industry from Spain to Japan to Oregon. It isn’t always just about the semen.