Equine baby business booms at The Mid North Coast Equine Reproduction Centre

STAFF: The Mid North Coast Reproduction Centre team, Sheridan Wicks (left) and Andrew Bennett (right). Breeding season starts at MERC in mid September.
STAFF: The Mid North Coast Reproduction Centre team, Sheridan Wicks (left) and Andrew Bennett (right). Breeding season starts at MERC in mid September.

The Mid North Coast Equine Reproduction Centre is a purpose designed equine breeding facility, owned and managed by Macleay Valley veterinarian Andrew Bennett who started the centre as a hobby 15 years ago. 

Andrew started artificially inseminating a few mares in the late 1990’s as part of his work as a mixed practice veterinarian.

With a steadily increasing demand for this type of work MERC was started in 2002 with a few yards and a couple of paddocks.

It allowed Andrew to examine mares at his convenience and meant clients didn’t have to travel mares for the daily or sometimes multiple daily examinations.

The centre has now expanded to cater for all types of equine reproductive services and a day at the centre in breeding season is hectic to say the least.

Preparing a mare to be inseminated or served naturally involves managing her “heat” or “Oestrus” cycle. Mares are seasonal breeders that come into season for about 5-6 days every 3 weeks during spring and summer months. 

At the end of that 5-6 days they release an egg or “ovulate” and insemination or live cover with a stallion is timed to have semen ready to fertilise that “egg”. The process is made complex by the need to arrange collection and transport of semen to arrive in time with the mare’s cycle. 

MERC not only prepares mares but also collects semen from several local stallions and it is shipped all over Australia for next day insemination.

“We average around 90 mares at MERC through breeding season and collect from about a dozen different stallions to fill orders. It keeps us busy.” he said.

MERC in recent years also added embryo transfer programs as an alternative for clients who do not wish to have their mare carry her own pregnancy.

“It’s such a rewarding job. We have been involved in breeding thousands of foals over the past few seasons and we love seeing those horses grow and compete in their various arenas be that performance racing, cutting or show.

IN THE LAB: Logistically stallion collection adds time and pressure to the already hectic schedule at MERC. Andrew started artificially inseminating mares in the late 1990’s.

IN THE LAB: Logistically stallion collection adds time and pressure to the already hectic schedule at MERC. Andrew started artificially inseminating mares in the late 1990’s.

“I am lucky to have Sheridan Wicks who is my farm manager and equine assistant full time at MERC. Sheridan is an excellent horseman and like me passionate about our breeding programs.

During the breeding season, we work seven days and get part time help from Patrick Brennan, Jack Bennett and Geoff Millard. It’s a great little team that works well together.” Andrew said..

Spring is already looking busy. New resident stallion Desire’s Blue Trinity is an exciting prospect for owners Kempsey Quarterhorses.Breeding season starts at MERC in mid September with the majority of breeding taking place until December. 

Featured in Rural Life magazine.