As an industry, we have grown accustomed to the traditional way of measuring semen quality.
The parameters used by boar stud labs leave much to be desired in guaranteeing good fertility. And, as a method to ensure fertility, we have accepted that pooling boars was our best plan. However, we believe that the ability to measure and identify quality genetics is central to meeting performance needs — and that should be done at an individual level rather than through pooled genetic material.
With our approach to genetic verification through our Commercial Test Herd, there is an opportunity to gather that individual boar fertility data — outside of the baseline motility and morphology parameters. It provided us proof that this gap exists in the industry, and encouraged us to take another look.
With our Commercial Test Herd, our primary goal is to validate genetic lines at a commercial level. In order to do this, we mate each of our boars to a minimum of 50 commercial sows balanced across lines and parity. This provides us a significant amount of conception rate data across a large number of single-sire commercial matings.
The graph below demonstrates the variation in conception rate, and the lack of accurate correlation with morphology and motility. The poorest boar has a 26% conception rate and the most fertile boar was at 96%, while maintaining a consistent score well above acceptable industry parameters of motile, normal sperm.
What we are doing about it
Our approach allows us the ability to evaluate our sires individually — ensuring that our lines can perform in a commercial setting. With data-backed proven fertility as one driving factor for our boar selection, we can take the boar out of the equation on the sow farm. This can provide opportunities to identify and solve other fertility factors, overall driving up conception rates and moving industry standards forward.
We have placed a great deal of focus on looking at the big picture of performance, and boar fertility is no different. We use our CTH to evaluate a large set of qualities to ensure that we are selecting the best sires for a production environment, and fertility is a key piece of the puzzle.
We think that a boar’s influence can shift from mitigating risk in your herd, to being a driver behind improving performance for your operation. The swine industry has more tools and data at their fingertips than ever before — and boar fertility should be at the forefront of that analysis.
Amanda is joined by Karl Kerns, Assistant Professor at Iowa State University, to discuss capturing relative phenotypes to help understand boar fertility at https://www.farms.com/swine/swine-report.aspx.