Somewhere out there is a hog carrying the genes for traits that may ensure the future survival of the pork industry. Those are pretty strong words, but Tim Safranski, University of Missouri swine specialist, wants to get the word out.

To preserve that genetic diversity, Safranski wants to collect boar semen from exotic breeds bypassed in modern hog breeding. "We're looking for producers who are raising hogs as a passion," he notes.

Safranski has been collecting semen one boar at a time as he finds unique small herds. Now, he wants help from pork producers with small herds nationwide.

To explain the program and teach boar owners how to collect semen, the first-ever "Boar Semen Collection/Processing Workshop for Small Scale Farms" will be Aug. 8-9 at the University of Missouri Trowbridge Livestock Center in Columbia, Mo.

Safranski and Wayne Singleton, swine specialist with Purdue University, will lead the
workshop. Usually they teach these methods to boar-stud managers on the largest swine farms in the country.

"We will teach producers who have never collected semen how to do it," says Safranski. "We'll teach the chemistry, biology and cleanliness required for successful collection."

Registration is $100 per person. "But we'd rather have people who will donate semen from their boars," Safranski notes. "They get in free." The only requirement is that they submit semen from two boars after completing the workshop.

USDA's National Animal Germplasm Program at Fort Collins, Colo., a workshop underwriter, will preserve the boar semen.  "Once we have a sample frozen in liquid nitrogen, it will be available for use far into the future," says Safranski.

"We have no idea what we are looking for in the way of genes and the traits they carry, but sometime in the future we may know what we need," he adds. "We must collect samples before we lose the last of these herds. Some are endangered species."

Once-common breeds such as Hereford and Tamworth fell into disfavor. Rarer breeds – including Gloucester Old Spots, Mulefoot, Red Wattle, and Saddleback – are on the "critical" list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, also a workshop co-sponsor.

Owners of small herds of five to 10 sows have swine genetics that should be preserved, Safranski says. The swine specialists hope the workshop will connect breeders who don't know each other. An owner of a rare breed in Missouri may meet an owner of the same breed in Ohio. "If they only have one or two boars, they can exchange semen to help prevent inbreeding in their own herds," Safranski says.

Producers may bring a rare-breed boar to the workshop where initial attempts at collection and training will be made. The workshop will have 20 boars and 10 sows for practice in semen collection and artificial insemination.

The irony of Premium Standard Farms of Princeton, Mo., being one of the workshop's sponsors is not unnoticed. "They have the second largest sow herd in the country," Safranski notes. "They fully realize the importance of maintaining genetic diversity."

For program information and to register, call Safranski at (573) 884-7994 or e-mail to at SafranskiT@missouri.edu

Source: University of Missouri