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Professor's e-stallion service auction benefits equine reproductive research


BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 20, 2005 – Move over EBAY… an equine veterinarian in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech has created an internet-based stallion service auction to benefit equine reproductive research in the college.

The electronic auction is the idea of John Dascanio, associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and a board certified equine reproductive specialist (theriogenologist). Dascanio says he got the idea to create the project after learning that four other colleges of veterinary medicine had launched similar electronic auctions in other areas of the country.

After conferring with college administration and Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Director of Development Frank Pearsall, Dascanio began working in earnest with Alison Elward, the college’s web developer and her colleague Rebecca Neumann, on the development of the data-base driven site. The site that has been developed supports a completely automated bidding process, contains information about equine reproductive research and links to other relevant sites.

“We need to identify more research funding, I’m kind of a computer geek, and this seemed like a good way for everyone to benefit and feel like they are part of our program,” said Dascanio.

The equine breeding season generally runs from the middle of February until the middle of June, Dascanio says, so the auction will begin in mid-December and conclude around mid-February. Horse owners who wish to donate stallion services, which will probably cost between $500 and $2,000 for the horses registered on the site, simply register information about their stallion on the site.

Auction participants then bid up the services for a particular stallion until the winning bid is announced at the end of the auction. The entire bid then goes to support the college’s equine reproductive research program.

The mares’ owners agree to pay all related costs associated with the breeding, including the collection, storage and shipment of semen, pregnancy and ultrasound examinations and other costs. With the exception of thoroughbreds that are bred through natural cover per regulations established by The Jockey Club, most horses have the opportunity to be bred through artificial insemination, Dascanio said.

“Hopefully, all parties will benefit,” said Dascanio. “The stallion owners will get a tax credit, the mare owners may receive a stud fee below the stallion’s normal cost, and money will be raised to support equine reproductive research at the college.”

Dascanio estimates that the stallion auction might raise between $12,000 and $40,000 a year to support equine reproductive research.

While Dascanio realistically admits the auction will probably never field the caliber of stallions that demand six-figure stud fees (the most expensive stud standing is a thoroughbred that requires a $500,000 fee for a standing foal), he is hopeful that the site and the quality of stallions will grow considerably in the years ahead.

One of the reasons Dascanio was motivated to create the program is because of the relative shortage of funds to support equine reproduction. Many organizations fund colic, lameness, laminitis and other disorders, but few specifically support equine reproductive work.

Dascanio and colleagues are already working on a number of promising programs. For example, pregnancy loss or abortion remains a significant problem with some mares. In one program, the researchers are looking at gene expression in the uterus of the horse to determine how an over or under-expression of some genes might contribute to the onset of post-mating endometritis- which can complicate and terminate a pregnancy.

More information about the program can be found athttp://eqrepro.vetmed.vt.edu/.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states.