Artificial Insemination Technology in Pigs

Artificial Insemination Technology in Pigs

By Takudzwa Gondo

Artificial insemination (AI) of pigs is one of the common practiced technologies in many countries especially under intensive pig production. In Western Europe, more than 90% of the sows or female pigs have been bred by AI. When compared with natural mating, AI is a very useful tool to introduce superior genetics into sow herds, with a minimal risk of disease using minimum costs. The outcome of AI largely depends on the semen quality as well as the insemination procedure.

In practice, fresh diluted semen for intracervical insemination is mostly used in pigs. Semen is obtained from boars on farms or from specialised AI-centres for example Pig industry board Mashonaland East and Braford farm in Chegutu. In simple terms Artificial insemination is the process whereby boar semen is tapped, diluted and packaged and then deposited into a female pig without using natural mating. This technology is becoming common and increasingly popular now days in Zimbabwe especially amongst the small to medium pig producers.

There are three important aspects that need to be considered when using AI. Firstly, only semen from healthy boars should be used. Semen should be purchased from reputable suppliers to ensure quality semen is used. The pigs should only be serviced whilst on standing heat to ensure a higher success rate.    Semen handling is also essential when transporting it to ensure that the viability of semen is not affected. Semen should be transported in sealed cooler boxes to ensure its temperature is maintained. Any changes in temperature and the micro-environment for the sperm cells influence the survival and longevity of the spermatozoa which in turn reduce the success rate of AI process.

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The management of AI process is very important to determine the success of the procedure and the reproductive performance of the sows. Estrus control, timing and number of inseminations, the technique of AI, semen storage on farm and the use of new AI technologies, all require a specialized knowledge of pig reproductive physiology. It is essential for one to be trained so that they can become trained inseminators and have a high success rate when using AI. Correct timing of insemination requires careful detection of oestrus or heat at regular intervals. Boar stimuli are important in promoting female pigs’ expression of oestrus behaviour. Additionally, a high level of boar stimuli increases the frequency of uterine contractions and heat setup. Therefore, exposure of sows to a boar during both back pressure testing and insemination is crucial.

When it comes to AI it is very crucial to observe time-relationships between oestrus, ovulation, insemination and fertilization. Servicing the pigs when they are at peak oestrus or heat is important so that the AI process will be successful.  However, prediction of oestrus duration by observing the onset of oestrus or heat after weaning has found broad acceptance in AI practice for calculation of the expected time of ovulation and time of insemination. AI should be timed as close as possible to ovulation, preferably within 12 to 24 hours before ovulation. This act of timing is important so that chances of conceiving will be high and on the other hand to achieve higher litter sizes.

AI technology is proving to be beneficial amongst farmers results being improved pig genetics and high litter sizes. AI technology is advantageous and quick method of introducing new genetics at a pig farm. On the other hand, it prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in pigs especially in areas and communities where farmers share boars. The AI process also reduce the cost of maintaining and keeping the boar especially with farmers who have a low sow unit of less than 10.

In Zimbabwe, the Pig Industry Board has a mandate to promote pig production, extension and training as well as breed improvements in the pig sector. It is still carrying this mandate through specialised training on artificial insemination. The board also sell high quality semen to pig farmers so that they can do AI at their farms. Furthermore, Pig industry board and Mashonaland East Pork Producers Business Syndicate a coalition of more than 500 pig farmers formed with support of Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme VALUE project are promoting the usage of AI technology amongst pig farmers.

The Pig industry board and Mashonaland East Pork Producers Business Syndicate are selling semen doses at an affordable price to ensure adoption and diffusion of this AI technology amongst pig farmers. This same promotional model is also running on the Mash West pig production corridor being implemented by Braford farm and Mashonaland West Pork Producers Business Syndicate a coalition of pig farmers from Mashonaland West. They are also running the same promotional model for semen of improved pig breeds where a farmer buys one semen dose and get another one for free. These two semen doses can then be used to inseminate one pig.

In conclusion AI technology is one of the important technology every farmer should adopt towards reduction of production cost as well as efficient and fast breed improvement programmes at their piggery farm. This technology has been used successfully in many pig farms and is efficient, it leads to improved production through high litter sizes and also improved productivity through increased efficiency of production. As a pig farmer this is the technology you should adopt at your farm for improved reproductive performance.


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