Sperm going to Canada

Steps for Shipping Equine Semen to Canada During the Current CEM Restrictions

– A step-by-step guide to the USDA and CFIA requirements for shipping equine semen to Canada from the USA.

By Jos Mottershead and Kathy St. Martin

It should be noted that while this article is correct at the time of going to press (April 2010, updated December 2020), the regulations may change at any given time. You are therefore advised to confirm currency of all information and forms contained herein with CFIA and/or USDA prior to collection and shipment of semen. This is a guide only and should not be taken as definitive.
Current regulations can be obtained through the Canadian Automated Import Reference System

Importation of semen from the USA to Canada is not insurmountable with the new regulations – indeed, they are essentially the same as the “old” regulations that were in place before the border opened to semen movement about 20 years ago – but they may prove difficult or impossible for some who want to ship cooled semen because of time-lines.

USDA now has an on-line system for procuring export certificates – the Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS). US Veterinarians must be enrolled in the system, which is free of charge (the usual certificate costs still apply), and prevents the need for physically attending a USDA office for certificate endorsement. The veterinarian submits to USDA on-line, and some hours later will receive the endorsed certificate back. If the shipping farm has a VEHCS account, the certificate can be forwarded directly to them. They can also make payment for the certificate directly to USDA through the VEHCS account. Details are available at the USDA VEHCS Help Page.

The steps for semen export are as follows:

  • The Canadian mare owner applies to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for an import permit.
  • Upon receipt of the import permit, a copy must be sent to the stallion owner/manager to accompany the semen at time of shipment. We recommend getting a multiple-entry permit, even though it is more expensive, as the same permit can be used if the mare fails to become pregnant on the first (or subsequent) shipment. With a single-use permit, a new permit must be obtained (and paid for) prior to a second or subsequent shipment being sent. The copy can accompany the semen shipment, but the original must be available for review by CFIA/CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency – formerly “Canada Customs”) if requested.
  • The semen is collected in the presence of a veterinarian certified by USDA-Aphis for the purpose (this is typically your normal vet), and they must issue a “Zoosanitary Export Certificate for Semen” that certifies as outlined at the foot of this list;
  • That “Zoosanitary Export Certificate for Semen”, if not issued digitally through VEHCS, must be taken along with the CFIA import permit to a USDA-Aphis office for endorsement by the Federal Vet. If being issued digitally, the veterinarian submits it to USDA through VEHCS (with a digital copy of the CFIA import permit), and if all is correct, will have access to the endorsed document a few hours later through the VEHCS website. If the stallion owner/farm has a VEHCS account, the endorsed document can be made avaailable directly to them for download through their account. USDA charge $81 for this endorsement (current at 12/10/2020);
  • A Customs Invoice must be completed and accompany the shipment – they are currently available on-line here;
  • Semen presented for importation into Canada must be in individual receptacles or straws, each marked with the collection date, identity of the donor and the semen collection premises;
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA aka “Canada Customs”) will also require a copy of the breeding contract;
  • If being shipped by courier such as FedEx, it will facilitate the process if they are provided with a power of attorney to act for the mare owner during importation. The form for FedEx along with instructions can be found here.
  • The semen is shipped.

By April of 2009, with the requirement that all semen – including cooled – imported from the USA to Canada be accompanied by both an import permit and a Zoosanitary Certificate endorsed by USDA, it was recognized that this presented a problem for many breeders in that time constraints prevented the obtaining of the USDA endorsement before the courier shipment deadline. Hence, many US stallions owners ceased to ship cooled semen to Canada. With the implementation of the VEHCS system, this should now not present a problem for most.

As one can see, it’s not difficult, but there are some specific steps that must be completed. If they are not, then the semen will be rejected at the time of inspection by CBSA. The requirement for endorsement by USDA-Aphis in particular is the item that may produce impossible time constraints for some. Obviously frozen semen will permit longer time-delays.

Note that there are NO differences as to the region where the horse is located. Some Internet bulletin board or Facebook posts that we have seen reference the stallion being in a “CEM free zone”, a “State not currently affected” or from a “USDA Certified CEM-Free farm” and that it might make a difference. It makes no difference to the import requirements. It is semen from ALL farms and ALL of the USA that must be certified in the manner described! If there are other diseases within the stallion farm’s state or within a certain radius, other requirements may also apply (an example would be Vesicular Stomatitis).

“Zoosanitary Export Certificate for Semen” Declaration wording:

The horse semen is certified as free of Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) as follows:

  1. The donor animal(s), from which the germplasm for export to Canada was sourced, have been examined and found to be healthy and free from any clinical evidence of communicable or infectious disease and, as far as can be determined, exposure thereto, during every procedure related to the collection of the germplasm.
  2. The donor horse(s) have not been on a premise where T.equigenitalis has been isolated during the 60 days immediately preceding collection of the semen for export to Canada or premises currently under quarantine or investigation for CEM.
  3. The semen was processed using an extender that contains antibiotics effective against T.equigenitalis.
  4. The semen is in individual receptacles or straws, each marked with the collection date, identity of the donor and the semen collection premises.


   The semen was legally imported into the U.S. for unrestricted use.
   Country where semen was collected: [insert country of origin]

Originally published by Equine-Reproduction.com 02/18/2009, with updates added 04/27/2009, 05/31/2017, 12/10/2020
Reviewed for content currency 04/22/2010, 05/31/2017
Current regulations can be obtained through the Canadian Automated Import Reference System
Use “semen” in the commodity search, then “equine (horse)” in the subsequent search field, then answer the questions appropriately.

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