AI Technicians' Impact on Farrowing Rate

There are three main variables that impact the success of a mating/service – the sow (gilt), semen quality and the capabilities of the person responsible for artificial insemination – the AI technician. We will focus on the AI technician this week.

Farrowing rate is one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) used in the Swine Management Services’ (SMS) database. It also has one of the flattest KPI bell curves (Chart 1) in the database.

Because the AI technician is one third of the mating variables, we need to look into more detail at the different variables that affect the AI technician, such as: breeding experience, level of training, personality traits (patience, detailed and routine oriented, organized, laid back, good at documentation reviewing records, reliable, observant, etc.).

To evaluate each AI technician, you need very detailed records, including sow/gilts identification, semen batch code or number, insemination technicians name or number, and time of insemination (military time).

Chart 2, Farrowing Rate by Technician, shows results on five different technicians, based on them doing the first and second matings or just the first, second or third mating. The data shows Technician #2 and #3 are very good breeders with farrowing rate at approximately 85% with very consistent numbers whether they do the first and second, or just the first, second or third mating. Technician #5, with a farrowing rate of 75% on first and second matings and first mating, improves to 78% when doing the second and third matings. This technician probably has problems determining when the female is in heat, so additional coaching is probably needed.

Chart 3 breaks farrowing rate down by technician, by parity of female bred. The chart shows Parity 0’s (green column) farrowing rate of 82%+ for technician 6, 7 and 8, while technicians 9 and 10 have farrowing rates of 70%+ for gilts. The farm management needs to provide some retraining on gilt breeding or make sure gilts are getting bred by Technician 6, 7, or 8. Some technicians are better at breeding older females than gilts.

Chart 4 breaks breeding down by the day of week the first insemination took place. Technician 1 does a very good job of breeding during the week, but struggles with breeding on Saturday and Sunday. Technician 5 shows the highest farrowing rates for sows bred Sunday to Thursday, with a 16% drop for sows bred on Friday. Unless you have detailed records about each mating, you will not be able to find problems areas, such as who needs training or why your farrowing rate is not where it should be.

Ideas for improving the farrowing rate:

  • Develop written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for the breeding area with details on how females are to be bred.
  • Keep detailed breeding information on each technician and review the results periodically, breaking down farrowing rate by parity, by day of the week, by hour of day, and by matings sequence.
  • Develop a profile of personality traits for your top breeders and develop SOP’s accordingly.
  • Make sure the insemination crew is healthy when breeding females. If a technician shows up at the farm sick, you should send him/her home.
  • Train all technicians on the proper breeding technique, sow stimulation, storage and handling of semen, heat detection methods and animal husbandry skills.
Remember that a 4% improvement in farrowing rate can produce 1.35 more pigs /sow/year.

Key Performance Indicators

Tables 1 and 2 (below) provide 52-week and 13-week rolling averages for key performance indicators (KPI) of breeding herd performance. These tables reflect the most current quarterly data available and are presented with each column. The KPI’s can be used as general guidelines to measure the productivity of your herd compared to the top 10% and top 25% of farms, the average performance for all farms, and the bottom 25% of farms in the SMS database.

If you have questions or comments about these columns, or if you have a specific performance measurement that you would like to see benchmarked in our database, please address them to: or

Click to view graphs.

Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC