The Do’s and Don’ts of Semen Quality

Sometimes in swine production, it is easy to overlook things like semen quality and care. We know that we cannot control the operating and quality procedures at the boar studs. What is within our control is how we handle the semen once it is in our possession. When I hear a farm has conception problems, one of the main things I carefully examine is semen quality and control.

Evaluate the semen
The sample must be opened and examined under a microscope. A consistent volume in each sample is the objective. Sperm concentration, total sperm number, motility, and morphology are all evaluated. Observe the sample for cell clumping. If 25% is clumping, the sample might be compromised and should be reported to the semen carrier. Quality control tests should be performed every other day until day 10, depending on the extender used.

Storage on farm
Upon its arrival, semen handling and storage are the responsibility of farm personnel. Make an effort to record the arrival information of all semen. Store batches at 63 degrees F in a unit with forced-air circulation. Place the storage unit in a temperature-controlled room with adequate airflow on all sides of the unit. Recording hi/low temperatures of the storage unit daily is recommended. High/low thermometers on the outside of the unit work accurately to record the temperature inside the cooler with proper probe placement. Some producers use a bottle with water and insert the temperature probe in the water to obtain more accurate temperature of the liquids stored in the cooler. It is important to GENTLY rotate semen every day to stir the bottle/bag contents.

Do not overload the storage unit with warm semen, as this could force the unit to work overtime and lead to mechanical problems. It could also affect the temperature of previously cooled semen, and once it is cooled, semen temperature should not fluctuate more than 5.4 degrees F. Temperature fluctuations can be detrimental to semen. When using semen for breeding, only take small batches into the portable storage unit and keep them on cool packs. Carry the semen with gentle care to avoid shaking, and refrain from tossing the tubes across the barn to a co-worker to use. It is also essential to keep semen away from ultraviolet light.

Semen quality and control is a valuable part of the production cycle and directly impacts reproduction success and your bottom line. If you should have any questions regarding semen quality and management, please reach out to your local Sioux Nation field marketer.