The use of artificial insemination (AI) in swine breeding programs continues to attract swine producers as a means of improving reproductive efficiency. Before a swine producer switches to an AI program, several things should be considered.
Management: A critical aspect of any successful AI program involves the breeding manager. The person responsible for the breeding program must be motivated to making AI work in the operation. Without an interest in using AI and some technical training, the result of using AI can be disappointing.
Total management of the operation should be considered prior to switching to an AI program. A good set of records helps determine the potential benefits of using AI. If current conception rates are low using natural service, don’t expect AI to correct this problem. AI requires greater attention to details. If previous breeding management was slack on details and records, a change in management routines must be made to improve the chance of success with an AI program.
Estrus Detection: Another area that requires attention is the detection of estrus and timing of insemination. In general, it is more difficult for operations using a pen mating system to switch to AI. Routine estrus detection is important to making AI work. Estrus should be checked on gilts and/or sows twice a day. Insemination should be timed so that maximum conception will occur. For gilts, insemination should occur 12 and 24 hours after the gilt first stands. Sows should be inseminated 24 and 36 hours after standing heat occurs.
Switching to an AI program should be a gradual process. Gaining confidence in AI methods, heat detection, insemination, and management will help insure the success of an AI program. The use of natural service in combination with AI may assist maintaining farrowing rates while the breeding manager is learning AI techniques. During the learning phase, don’t extend semen to the maximum range. Although 2 to 3 billion sperm usually give acceptable fertility, a higher concentration (5 to 6 billion sperm per insemination) is recommended.
Regardless of the size of operation, using AI can provide a means of making genetic improvement in the swine operation. Other advantages of using AI include:
- Requires fewer boars than using natural service
- Genetic improvement may occur more rapidly
- Reducing the risk of disease transmission
- Market pigs tend to be more uniform because fewer sires are used
- Time required for breeding may be reduced
- Less stress on breeding herd especially in summer heat
Producers considering the use of AI should consider the benefits and be aware of the potential problems.
- Requires higher level of management
- Storage of extended semen is limited
- Sanitation of equipment is a must
- Heat detection is critical for AI success
- Training of workers
Remember, making the switch from natural service to AI should be a gradual process. Learning the techniques of AI, keeping accurate records, following a breeding program, and maintaining motivation of people are important to the success of an AI program. Additional information regarding AI techniques can be obtained by contacting your local County Extension Office.