27 March 1998

Cost benefits of DIY AI mask risks to health and fertility

ûTHE benefits of using semen collected on-farm for DIY AI have been oversold to pig producers while theoretical risks, such as in-breeding, are fast becoming a reality.

Pig Veterinary Society vice-president, Christianne Glossop, reports increasing problems caused by lax AI training and on-farm auditing.

DIY AI offers cost savings over natural service, she says. "Costs can be cut, but producers are cutting corners in AI procedures which can be costly. Health status and fertility are at risk."

Many are misled into believing that boar numbers can be cut severely with DIY AI, she adds. Typically, a boar:sow ratio of 1:200 can be achieved with AI against 1:25 for natural service, but Dr Glossop insists that a minimum of three boars are required regardless of sow numbers.

"A minimum of three boars is required even on 100-sow units to ensure fresh semen is collected weekly and to guard against ill boars or dead semen being used. And dont forget other roles boars have on units, such as inducing sows to come into heat."

Many stockmen are collecting semen without proper training, claims Dr Glossop. "Where staff turnover is high, passing on AI techniques is becoming nothing more than Chinese whispers on some units."

Unless strict procedures for collecting, diluting and handling semen are followed, the risk of poor quality semen being used and disease being spread across herds is high, she warns.

"Were already seeing some bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics in semen extender. Hygiene is important as DIY AI now accounts for 40% of AI use in the UK and increases the risk of poor fertility and disease being spread above that of natural service."

The financial effect of using poor quality semen for a 100-sow herd could result in losses of up to £1000 for a three-week service period where each empty day is worth £3/sow in lost production when serving an average of five sows a week. "And thats not accounting for the cost of any disease which may be spread via semen."

Dr Glossop suggests units of 500 sows or more benefit most from DIY AI. "Im not knocking it, but these are real problems were running into and unless training and auditing is improved, this situation will only get worse.n

DIYAI success depends on adequate training and sufficient boars.

DIY AI TIPS

&#8226 Training is essential.

&#8226 Monitor procedures regularly.

&#8226 Minimum of three boars/unit..