15 October 1999

Higher genetic merit boars now available through using AI on Mark Haywards unit means pigs finish rapidly, saving about £1 a pig, he says.

AI offers much better value than natural service

AI HAS brought savings of more than £3000 a year to one Suffolk unit, meaning only three AI boars and 10 chaser boars are needed for the 800-sow outdoor herd.

Keeping fewer boars also means higher genetic sires are affordable, producing progeny which reach slaughter weight more quickly.

For the last two years, Mark Hayward has used AI on all his sows. "AI has proved to be much better value than natural service.

"I used to run 35-40 boars including chasers. AI is simpler, you dont have so many boars to feed, which saves cost, and more uniform progeny are produced." (See table).

Semen is collected from three boars on the unit once a week by technician, Jonathan Bradley. It is processed in his mobile laboratory and lasts for between three days and a week.

Chaser boars

Sows are served indoors. "Sows are housed away from boars and run in front of them every day. When they stand still they are ready to serve. Each boar produces sufficient semen to serve 12 sows a week," says Mr Hayward. Any returning sows are picked up by chaser boars.

Mr Hayward believes he has seen a lift in conception rates and numbers born since using AI. Currently the farrowing rate is 85% to first service.

"From time to time we get some trouble, but generally staff pay more attention to getting AI right than supervising natural service," he says.

Because fewer boars are required since the unit switched to AI, higher genetic merit boars can be afforded.

"It is difficult to quantify the value of better genetics. But supposing pigs take four days less to reach slaughter weight, that is a saving of about £1 a pig – £19,000 over the whole herd." &#42


AI (£) Natural

service (£)

Boars 3750 13,000

Chasers 2500 2500

Feed 441 5145

Semen collection

and processing 9724

AI catheters 884

Total 17,299 20,645