“Before you can select a genetic supplier, you must first determine your production and business needs,” says Tom Long, swine geneticist.

He offers the following review to help narrow your search.

Determine how you will use the progeny. Do you raise market hogs, replacement females or breeding boars? Answering this question lets you evaluate your terminal-line and maternal-line needs.

Determine your sow herd’s lean-growth potential. After all, sows supply half of the genes.

“Producers don’t need to weigh and backfat-probe all of their potential replacement gilts,” says Long. “However, having an idea of the sow’s lean-growth potential will help you choose the best terminal-sire line.”

Evaluate the pigs’ growing environment. That includes diets, equipment, health status and any other input that affects growth performance.

“You want to provide an environment that lets your pigs express their full potential for efficient lean growth,” explains Long.

Decide what population to select your genetics from, whether you’re shopping for sows, boars or semen.

There are reams of genetic reports and research available. A phone call to a geneticist would be a dime well spent. He or she can help you find and decipher information and offer guidance specific to your herd.

What type of breeding system do you use? Do you use live boars and natural mating? Should you buy a boar and collect semen on the farm? You could buy a boar and put him in a stud for a fee or service arrangement. Or do you want to purchase semen?

There’s a risk assessment involved with each choice. For example, if you opt to buy boars and collect semen on the farm, boar housing and semen quality control come into play.

Also consider the type of boar you need. Select AI boars from the top 5 percent of boars produced in a population.

Select boars that are free of the halothane gene.

Consider your herd’s health status and health concerns. Identify the diseases and disease strains that exist in your herd. Remember that some diseases are passed through semen. Select boars and sows with a clean bill of health. Your veterinarian can help.

Determine the genetic suppliers’ program for introducing replacement animals onto your farm. Make sure you have proper isolation procedures for all gilts, sows and boars entering your herd. A good genetic supplier will offer acclimatization and scheduling advice.

Herd health protocols are important for purchased semen as well. See that the boar stud has its program in order.

Maintain an open dialogue with your veterinarian and the genetic supplier’s veterinarian. Compare herd health status before you make a decision. That relationship will come in handy should a disease break occur on your farm or the supply farm.