Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

'Artificial insemination was rejected as an idea at first'

Emma-Rose Conroy's artificial insemination business has over 200 stallions available
Emma-Rose Conroy's artificial insemination business has over 200 stallions available

Sport horse breeding has come a long way in the past decade with artificial insemination, and one woman who has ensured its ongoing development here is Emma-Rose Conroy, founder of Euro Stallions.

"It all came about when I was having difficulty sourcing a suitable stallion for my one warmblood mare," says the Tullamore-based veterinary surgeon.

"All the stallions I liked were standing abroad and it was working out so expensive. I figured I shouldn't have to spend 50pc of my budget on shipping."

In an effort to solve her own problem, she came up with the idea of offering an affordable service of sport horse semen to fellow breeders throughout Ireland, and beyond.

Established in 2013, with just a handful of foreign stallions on the books at that time, the EU-approved centre now offers semen for dozens of top performance stallions throughout Europe.

So impressive was her initial business plan that she received funding to the tune of €20,000 as a finalist in Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur competition.

Breeders can simply browse through the stallions available via the website, and then contact Emma-Rose, who takes over from there.

"Depending on whether the breeder needs chilled or frozen semen, we offer a direct service from the stallion's base to the breeder, or else through one of our five recommended vets.

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"This makes it cost-effective as in this case we have frozen semen for some of the more popular stallions on standby."

Popular show-jumping stallions include the Irish-based Luidam, sire of both the five and six-year-old winners at this year's Dublin Horse Show, and of a sale-topping three-year-old which sold for €125,000 in France.

"While we have a lot of clients from Ireland as well as France, Germany and Spain, we are seeing more and more people from the UK using our service due to the strong sterling rate and also the fact that the VAT rate here on stud fees is 13.5pc compared to 20pc over there."

A graduate of veterinary medicine in 2006, Emma-Rose first developed an interest in equine reproduction some 15 years ago while spending her summer holidays at Ballycrystal Stud. She later got her grounding for general animal health at UCD.

"I loved college but as it concentrated on large animals and pets, I was a little naive when it came to horses so I then had to find other suitable places to do my work experience."

This time was spent with such notable horse-breeding specialists as Twemlows Stud Farm in the UK and also Pacific Genetics International in the USA. "I was always fascinated with equine reproduction and I knew early on that was the area I wanted to specialise in," she said.

After graduating from UCD, Emma-Rose was offered a position within the college assisting with a non-horse related project, but it was at a time when she was considering starting a family, and so sacrifices had to be made for the next few years.

"I wanted to have children while I was still young and I knew that was not possible if I was away working all the time," says the 31-year-old, who now has two daughters Matilda (4) and Eppie (3) with her publican husband Emmet Lynch.

Kick-starting the importation of semen as a business was first discussed in 2012, but it took many months to establish a trust with some of Europe's most well-known stallion owners.

One of the first to come on board was Paul Schockemohle, owner of some 35 top-class show jumping and dressage stallions across Europe. "After that it just built up gradually and others who first rejected the idea then came back looking to get involved.

"I suppose I never expected it to get as busy as it is with 200 stallions now available to breeders," she concluded.

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