19 May 2000

Huge savings seen in sexed semen

SEXED semen could be improving efficiency by £33,000 a year on a 500-sow unit in three years time, according to the Cotswold Pig Development Company.

Cotswolds John Webb told a pre-Pig and Poultry Fair briefing that semen sexing offered a relatively easy step forward in efficiency.

"Producing pigs of a single sex avoids the need for split-sex feeding, allows nutritional requirements to be met more accurately and gives a more uniform end product," he said.

Thats why its parent company Ridlyey has invested £400,000 in the semen sexing company Gensel Biotechnologies of Ontario, Canada.

Gensel chief executive, Jeremy Gawen, believed that continuing research made this timetable practical.

It has already identified sex specific proteins on the outside of each sperm and produced antibodies which could inactivate them, leaving sperm of only one sex viable.

By next year, Gensel hopes to have purified antibodies so it can begin commercial field trials. These trials will take up to two years, and will ensure the technology is safe and adequate conception rates can be achieved.

The technique does not damage the sperm which fertilises the egg, and there is no genetic modification, added Dr Gawen.

He believed that treating semen with antibody solution and leaving it for just 20 minutes, offers a low-cost method of sexing.

"In that 20 minutes, a whole ejaculate can be sexed, producing 100-200 doses of semen, so this simple procedure could become part of an AI centres normal routine."

Other methods of semen sexing currently being used have slow sort rates, and need expensive equipment and highly-skilled staff, he added.