AI has undoubtedly taken off in the pig sector in the last few years, but how can you be sure the semen you’re using is the best quality? Well until now pig farmers have had to rely on AI companies assurances.

But now, the launch of BPEX’s AI Quality Standard means farmers can be assured the semen arriving on their farms is of the highest quality possible and regularly checked.

BPEX AI programme manager Angela Cliff told a briefing last week that every step in the semen collection, freezing, storage and distribution chain had been evaluated and a standard formulated for AI studs to work to.

“Issues such as collection pen hygiene and transporting semen to the stud lab have been addressed to ensure semen reaches the lab in good condition.”

After that, all further steps have also been verified, with standards put in place for these too, including semen quality assessment, extender preparation, semen dilution and storage, she explained.

But these checks and standards are only part of the story, reckoned producer Ms Cliff.

“The key part of the AI process happens on-farm and while semen may arrive in perfect condition there is plenty which can happen to it after then which can render it totally or partially ineffective.”

A point not lost on producer Mike Sheldon, who said no matter what breeding companies did, farmers had to play their part too. “We need to ensure the sow conceives when she is inseminated.

A sow failing to conceive is a waste of the genetic potential in the semen and is a waste of money.”

Mr Sheldon said ensuring farm staff knew how to handle semen at every step of the chain was essential. “On my unit we ensure the reception of semen on farm and its handling, storage and use after that point is all undertaken according to a protocol.

“Every step in the process is repeated in exactly the same way every time it is done,” he explained.

But all this work would come to nothing unless farmers and their staff understand their pigs, he said.

“We have spent time studying our pigs and know when it is the right time to inseminate them, otherwise the semen we buy may as well be tipped down the drain.”

For more information on the AI Quality Standard which has been supported by all the main pig breeding companies see www.bpex.org.uk