Echo Mountain Ranch: Ranch uses cutting edge technology in breeding program
Glenrock – Located in Glenrock, Echo Mountain Ranch was purchased eight years ago by Bill and Gaye Farleigh, says Echo Mountain Ranch Office Manager Tom Swanson.
The couple purchased their first Gypsy Vanner horse approximately 1.5 years later.
“The Farleighs were in California when they saw Gypsy Vanner horses and fell in love with them,” Swanson explains. “Bill and Gaye decided they would like some on the ranch and started their breeding program.”
After acquiring frozen semen from the internationally renowned sire The Lion King, who passed away in 2008, the ranch started its reproductive program.
“It was thought that The Lion King’s semen had all been lost in a fire a Colorado State University (CSU) several years ago, but our ranch manager Donnie Dalen had a friend in Colorado who had some frozen vials,” he continues.
After semen from The Lion King was evaluated at CSU, it was determined to be immotile and unable to be used in a traditional artificial insemination program.
Instead, the ranch elected to use the advanced reproductive procedure Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) to most effectively use the limited number of spermatozoa.
“The only way to effectively use The Lion King’s semen at the time was to use the ICSI program at CSU, which is the injection of a single sperm into a single egg,” says Swanson, noting that the oocytes are currently collected from their mare Babydoll.
The process allows the reproductive technician to select the motile and morphologically good sperm, which is then inserted with a micropipette through the zona pellucida and deposited directly into the cytoplasm of the oocyte.
After the fertilized zygote is cultured to the appropriate size, it is transferred into a surrogate mare, he explains.
“We have 18 Gypsy horses on the ranch right now, seven of which are one to two years old and are the result of our current breeding program,” says Swanson.
A large aspect of the ranch’s breeding program is the use of equine ICSI using semen from The Lion King.
“Babydoll is the most famous of our mares, and we send her to Fort Collins, Colo. for the ICSI program,” he continues.
Echo Mountain also uses genetics from other top sires, breeding them to Babydoll Delight, the daughter of Babydoll.
“We have bred her to highly acclaimed stallions from different parts of the United States, and we’ll do that again this year,” comments Swanson.
Once the foals reach three years of age, Swanson explains the ranch will begin seeking out suitable breeding matches.
“We’ll begin breeding those horses to high-value or well-known stallions and mares,” he says.
Colts born to the ranch will be raised and evaluated based on their conformation, quality and other important characteristics.
“Any colts we have now that grow into good stallions will be offered for stud,” continues Swanson.
As Echo Mountain Ranch looks toward the future, Swanson summarizes, “We hope to keep breeding and to continue make our breeding program better.”
The Gypsy Vanner breed was created by the gypsies of Great Britain and Ireland following World War II with the goal of creating the perfect caravan horse.
Dennis and Cindy Thompson are attributed with first importing the horses to the U.S. and with aiding in the breed being officially recognized, explains Swanson.
“The breed was first brought to Florida by Dennis Thompson back in the 90s,” he says.
The majority of Gypsy Vanner horses in the U.S. are located on the East Coast and in the Midwest, Texas and Oklahoma.
“There’s also a few in California and Arizona. There’s only one other Gypsy Vanner ranch in Wyoming. We were the first and only for awhile,” Swanson comments. “There’s a very small ranch in Montana and a few in Washington and Oregon, too.”
The large distance to and from other Gypsy Vanner breeders does provide some challenges to their operation, Swanson comments.
“One of our greatest challenges is the fact that Wyoming is a long way from other Gypsy Vanner ranches,” he says. “When we go to a Gypsy show, we have to travel a long way.”
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.