Improvement of fertility in swine: control of semen quality and animal welfare in artificial insemination centres

Improvement of fertility and prolificness in swine reproduction. Evaluation of genetic factors and animal welfare that affect the semen quality of males in artificial insemination centres and embryo mortality in sow farms.

Genetics is considered as a key factor for improving the economic results of swine farms while improvements in fertility and prolificness in swine reproduction is essential for the economic profitability of a pork business. Therefore, genetic companies have investigated how to develop new lines for increasing productivity of pigs and meat quality in recent years. The genetic market is now demanding more sow prolificness and higher litter homogeneity. Embryonic mortality in the pig is quite high (around 30%), not only because of problems related to the high ovulation capacity of the sow but also due to gamete alteration causes. A key factor for decreasing this embryonic mortality is to develop new techniques enabling a higher control of seminal quality, and to identify sows and boars with chromosomical alterations using this technique. Artificial insemination is a standard practice in modern pork production. However, classical semen testing may be insufficient for detecting natural anomalies and predicting the productivity of semen doses. An optimal semen quality is desired in males looking at artificial insemination. A reduced embryo mortality rate is needed in reproductive females. Testing of selection animals is extremely important because they are at the top of the production pyramid. Consequently, NUTRIVALL, S.L.V. will try to meet these market demands with a new R+D project to study the influence of the seminal quality of the boars used in artificial insemination, with special attention being paid to the detection of hyper-prolific and hypo-prolific genetic carriers and the evaluation of the effect of lodging factors and boar welfare on seminal quality, as an innovative point of control in breeding production. In the project, techniques will be developed to identify genetic and management factors that affect reproductive performance. The implementation of these techniques will identify individuals with genetic anomalies (reciprocal translocations in cariotype). Indeed, several housing, environment and management factors may affect the animal welfare and result in poor libido and semen quality. The aim of this project is therefore the improvement in fertility and prolificness in swine through the control of genetic and welfare factors in boars. For that, two of the Artificial Insemination Centres (AIC) of the company will be used (LLEIDA and VALLADOLID, both located in SPAIN), where different trials are going to be carried out to evaluate and develop: - A technology to identify hypo-prolific boars as a consequence of alterations in their cariotypes, developing several procedures of seminal contrast to detect semen which increases embryonic mortality. These works will be developed in collaboration with Dr. Raul Sanchez, from the Animal Reproduction Department of the INSTITUTO NACIONAL DE INVESTIGACIONES Y TECNOLOGIA AGRARIA Y ALIMENTARIA (INIA). - The effect of lodging, environmental and rearing conditions such as temperature, ventilation, photoperiodicity, cleanliness and bio security on the welfare, the seminal quality and the libido of the boars. This study will be developed in collaboration with Dr. Joan Tibau from the Swine Control Centre at the INSTITUT DE RECERCA I TECNOLOGIA AGROALIMENTARIA (IRTA). Blood testing, advanced semen quality techniques (motility, damage of acrosome, DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid) fragmentation, etc.) and cariotype evaluation tests will be developed and implemented in the artificial insemination centres. Semen samples tested by these techniques will be assessed in reproduction sows in order to evaluate fertility and prolificness. A new database with different parameters of semen quality in the centres and sow performance will be built to evaluate the effectiveness of the methodology. If the methodology is successful, these techniques will be adapted as standard to improve the genetic testing of reproduction animals. The expected results of this project are: - The measure of the effectiveness of traditional seminal contrasts on sow performance in production farms. - To detect and eliminate the animals with reciprocal genetic translocations in order to improve the prolificness and homogeneity of the litters. - The design of lodging and rearing programmes for giving the best conditions in animal welfare and its effects in semen quality. Keywords: artificial insemination, seminal quality, boar welfare.
Project ID: 
3 427
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
1 980 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Animal Selection/Production / Husbandry technology
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.