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Safeguarding breeding from the nouveau riche


International (by Arnaud Evain) John Petit-Legrand had every reason to be proud. On November 17, 2018, the world rankings of the WBFSH had just been published and he was in possession of 10 straws from each of the 10 best stallions in the world! This coveted collection was not so difficult to gather: seven of them were “available ‘by the straw’ on the European market, and I recovered the rest by buying them back from a South American breeder....”

Petit-Legrand had invested a total 23,000 euros, but he was going to be able to launch the enterprise he had been planning for four years, since he had first heard of ICSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection).

Arnaud Evain
Arnaud Evain


This technique, common in humans and also used in cattle, consists of injecting one spermatozoid with a micro-needle into the oocyte’s cytoplasm to obtain an embryo. It has been used successfully by all of the teams who had worked on the equine cloning and freezing of embryos at an early stage of their development. It was now controlled by many veterinary clinics in Europe and America, and its cost (less than 200 euros per attempt) had become affordable.

After a modest career as a breeder and stallion owner, John Petit-Legrand had found a way to write himself into the history of breeding and to establish a fortune at the same time. His operation was based on the fact that ICSI required only a single spermatozoid, while each of his precious straws contained 50 million of them! Thaw a straw in 5000 ml of diluent, stir to disperse the 50 million cells in a reasonably consistent way, and refreeze the whole in mini 0.1 ml straws: you get 50,000 new straws containing on average 1,000 spermatozoid. It was more than enough to allow a skilled operator to select the spermatozoid that he would use for ICSI...