A $900,000 USDA grant will help University of Illinois researchers advance the knowledge and practical use of frozen boar semen in U.S. swine herds. The project is called, “Advancing Technology for Practical Use of Cryopreserved Boar Sperm to Improve Opportunities for Profitable Pork Production.”

Collaborators will examine how U.S. pork producers can make genetic progress and improve biosecurity measures through the use of frozen boar semen. The project is funded by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The project’s director, Rob Knox, swine reproductive Extension specialist at the University of Illinois, will lead one of the five approved projects for 2009. “Our first aim is to use multivariate analysis to identify in-vitro tests for predicting in-vivo fertility of cryopreserved boar sperm,” says Knox. “Our second aim is to identify methods that maintain fertility when inseminating reduced numbers of valuable frozen sperm. Finally, we want to provide practical educational tools that help producers make decisions regarding the use of frozen boar semen for genetic advancement, productivity and disease protection in domestic or international markets.”  

Nearly all U.S. commercial pork producers use artificial insemination to breed sows and gilts– a major transition from levels of the 1990s.

“Fertility on U.S. hog farms is phenomenal,” says Knox. “But improvements in swine breeding systems will come at a much slower rate now. To go from 80 percent farrowing rates to 90 percent requires many things to happen at the same time.”

Knox began investigating U.S. breeding systems from semen fertility to disease to A.I. timing in an attempt to figure out how to help pork producers achieve even higher efficiency. “The U.S. pork industry relies on liquid semen with a shelf life of only five days,” he says. “A.I. is performed using 3 billion sperm in multiple inseminations, with pooled semen from multiple boars. This methodology, while successfully minimizing infertility from poor quality semen, increases the risk for disease transmission and reduces the potential for genetic advancement by diluting semen from sires with superior traits.”

Frozen semen is expected to help improve rates of genetic progress, improve profitability and protect herds against disease, making pork operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Project collaborators include University of Illinois researchers, Dave Miller, Rebecca Krisher, Sandra Rodriguez-Zas, Peter Goldsmith and Sherrie Clark. Additional investigators include Phillip Purdy from USDA and Ken Stalder from Iowa State University.

 Source: University of Illinois