On 20 September, during the ALFA 2018 week, PIC hosted a pig production workshop. The workshop was presented by Marguerite Schwarzer of PIC and Dr. Maygan Jennings of Zoetis and focussed on the benefits of artificial insemination (AI) in pigs as well as on vaccinations and general health in the pig herd. The disadvantages of using AI and the intricate mating patterns of pigs were also discussed.

Benefits of AI

  • PIC imports frozen semen on a regular basis, thus ensuring that the genetics on South African soil is connected to their international herds. This ensures an upgraded and better quality product that is available to PIC’s customers. The genetic benefit of AI is one of the most important benefits if implementing this technique on the farm.
  • It is more hygienic and safeguards animal health by preventing the spread of diseases in a herd.
  • It helps overcome the differences in size between gilts and boars. Big boars could potentially injure smaller gilts in the mating process.
  • AI lessens problems experienced in summer or seasonal infertility.
  • The quality of a boar’s semen reduces over time and by using AI you can always have access to top quality semen.
  • With access to superior genetics and reduced risks (some of which are discussed above) it also makes more economic sense. There is also a reduced cost associated with not having to purchase and feed a boar for natural mating.

Disadvantages of AI

  • Results with frozen semen could be disappointing. Pig semen can’t be frozen and thawed with the same success as in e.g. cattle. Conception rates tend to be a bit lower with the use of frozen semen.
  • Logistics of working with fresh semen takes a bit of planning. Semen orders need to be arranged and received on a regular basis.
  • Management aspects, such as handling and storage, are specialised. A cold chain needs to be maintained to store semen of high quality. Exposure to sunlight kills semen and it should be stored accordingly to avoid such exposure.
  • Staff must be trained and adequate knowledge is required to perform AI.

Mating patterns of pigs

For AI to be successful in pigs heat detection, timing and technique is of the utmost importance. There are indicative symptoms to look out for to determine when a sow is in heat. Symptoms of early heat include restlessness, vocal behaviour and redness of the vulva. Producers should wait until redness in the vulva subsides and the sow becomes quiet. When she is ready to mate she will stand still for a boar. Similarly, when doing AI the sows must be checked to see if they will stand still for the person performing the insemination.

There are many intricate skills one needs to successfully perform AI. Watch a video below that was taken at the workshop for a sneak peak of how insemination is done.

Click here to see the tweets done on the day for more information. 

For more information about courses available for AI contact Marguerite Schwarzer on marguerite@picrsa.co.za. –Ursula Human, AgriOrbit