Developing a novel diagnostic test for early pregnancy in the mare


This project seeks to enhance breeding efficiency in the Thoroughbred (TB) horse industry by working towards developing a novel method for the detection and monitoring of early pregnancy. Despite gold standard management practices, breeding is still inefficient and drives significant economic losses: while fertilisation rates are estimated at 95%, only about 65% of covers end up as foals on the ground. Improved pregnancy monitoring techniques are urgently needed. In this project we will harness stateoftheart mass spectrometry technology to compare the blood protein and lipid profiles of early pregnant and nonpregnant mares, and use worldfirst in vitro strategies to investigate the unique biological features of equine pregnancy. This will ultimately lead to development of a quick, simple and accurate onfarm blood test for early pregnancy and enhanced understanding of the possible causes for early embryo loss.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

The University of Newcastle

Objective Summary

This project aims to work towards the development of a novel, simple and robust onfarm test for the detection of early pregnancy in the mare, and will consist of the following R&D objectives: 1. To compare the serum protein profile of early pregnant and nonpregnant mares 2. To compare the serum lipid profile of early pregnant and nonpregnant mares 3. To identify compounds that could serve as biomarkers of a) early pregnancy and b) compromised early pregnancy or poor embryo health, at timepoints prior to conventional diagnosis by ultrasound (i.e. earlier than day 14 after ovulation) 4. To profile the compounds (proteins and lipids) secreted by early equine embryos, their biological roles in interaction with the maternal system (e.g. maternal recognition and prostaglandin production), and their potential role in early embryo demise 5. Building on the outcomes of objectives 14, to design a prototype test suitable for onfarm trials as an early pregnancy detection and/or pregnancy health monitoring diagnostic assay, to be trialed in subsequent breeding seasons.

Project Code


Project Stage


Project Start Date

Friday, May 17, 2019

Project Completion Date

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Journal Articles From Project

Not Available

National Priority

Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries

National Priority

Adoption of R&D

National Priority

HOR-Improve breeding outcomes and foal health and development