CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN SEMEN QUALITY AND FERTILITY

 

Evaluating individual boar fertility is rare in the North American swine industry. Boar stud AI labs use traditional semen quality parameters (i.e. >75% motile, normal) to evaluate individual boars, but these measurements don’t guarantee good fertility — it’s only a starting point.

How can we best eliminate subfertile boars and leverage the highly fertile?
To pool or not to pool? Most US producers use pooled semen as cheap “fertility insurance.” Data is limited, but research suggests two disparate scenarios exist when boars of varying fertility are pooled: the realized fertility is either the average of the boars in the pool or the minimum / maximum fertility of the individual boars in the pool.

If we can proactively understand the fertility differences among boars, pooling semen is a less ideal long-term solution.
Are our current parameters true indicators? The graph below demonstrates the variation in conception rate (CR) across a large number of single-sire commercial matings. The poorest boar has a 26% CR, while the most fertile boar is at 96% CR. Motility and morphology parameters remain relatively constant among boars and over time. Needless to say, traditional semen quality measures are not perfect predictors of boar fertility. There is considerable room for improvement in defining fertility outcomes of individual boars.
Figure 1. The graph depicts boar fertility vs. motility and morphology. Data were collected in our Commercial Test Herd, using single sire matings on multiple commercial sow farms. Each bar represents the mating performance of an individual boar.
Is there a better way? Through internal research, we believe parameters such as DNA fragmentation, mitochondrial health and acrosome and membrane viability are key components of a sperm’s fertilizing capability. The appropriate combination of parameters should increase the accuracy of predicting boar fertility, making single sire boar matings seem less of a gamble than pools.
The boar’s influence on field fertility can be thought of as a way to improve performance in comparison to merely protecting risk.
The boar stud industry has not changed significantly in the last 15 years, but the landscape of the boar stud has more data-driven opportunities than ever before. In the near future, studs will have the opportunity to measure — in real-time — new sperm quality parameters during the processing of an individual ejaculate. This will enable a new set of capabilities through developed algorithms that incorporate numerous measures of sperm health at a deeper level — which will predict individual boar fertility better than ever before.
Technical Expert: Amanda Minton, Acuity associate director of reproductive technology
As the associate director of reproductive technology at Acuity, Amanda focuses solely on delivering customer value. A graduate of Purdue (BS) and Mizzou (MS), Amanda has spent her career supporting swine producers through her expertise in male and female reproductive performance. In her current role, she has operational and technical oversight of Acuity boar studs, supports contract and customer studs, on-farm reproductive and technical support, and leads reproductive-focused research. Her work has been influential as Acuity seeks to understand every opportunity to maximize performance predictability.
Connect with Amanda
Acuity was created in response to a need for genetic improvement with a systems-based focus. For nearly a decade, our technical team has worked to develop a platform capable of delivering solutions that increase profitability throughout the supply chain. Our focus is different: commercially-derived data supports decisions that enable value realization.
Build on a better foundation at www.acuityswine.com.