An In-Depth Look at AI Breeding

For this review, we chose 22 farms in the database that recorded Semen Batch Code and AI Technician, and ran the data through two of Swine Management Service's (SMS) specialized reports, the In-Depth Breeding Analysis and the Breeding Technician Report.

These reports look at farrowing rate by AI technician, semen batch code, parity, number of services, number of matings, days to first estrus, days to estrus return, day of week breed, lactation length, the time of day of breeding, etc. In this analysis, the last 51 weeks of breeding results were used to ensure the records were updated and all bred females farrowed. The data represented 122,000-plus services. The farms involved were of different sizes, different genetic lines and different geographical locations. Two of the three variables of the SMS Breeding Triangle, the semen and the AI technician, were selected for analysis. The overall farrowing rate was 85% for the 51-week period of time.

In looking at the farrowing rate of semen batches, we selected batches with a minimum of 10 doses per batch to a maximum of 99 doses. This gave us 1,840 batches of semen for Farrowing Rate by Semen Batch (Table 1). The table was broken down by ranges of 5% in farrowing rate and the number of batches of semen in each farrowing range. A total of 6.3% of the semen batches had a farrowing rate of 100%, down to 1.4% of the batches which had less than 50% farrowing rate, and 31% of the semen batches had less than 80% farrowing rate.

Remember that farrowing rate has three variables which all must be right to get high farrowing rates: semen, the technician and the sow. To guarantee that you are using the best quality semen, take semen temperatures upon delivery and record them. Ensure that each semen cooler has a means of recording the daily hi/low temperatures and monitoring the charts for variation at delivery time and from day to day.

Chart 1 Farrowing Rate by Semen Batch depicts the level of variation in the farrowing rate of the 1,840 batches of semen. SMS highly recommends that you record semen batch code and AI technician for every mating. From collection to insemination, there are a multitude of steps to follow, and slipups on any one of them can cause a drop in farrowing rate. If you don't record it, you cannot analyze it.

Table 2 Farrowing Rate by Technician by the Number of the Mating was information from 41 AI technicians; with each one selected having bred at least 10 females per week over the 51 weeks and the sows farrowed. The top technician had a farrowing rate of 91.4% and the lowest was at 56.7% with an average at 85%.

In Table 2, the data was broken down by the number of matings, and the farrowing rate calculated by the technician doing the first and second mating, only the first mating, only the second mating or only the third mating. The technicians doing the first and second matings had 78.1% of their matings with a farrowing rate at 80%-plus with only 2.4% of the technicians below 60% farrowing rate. When the technician was only the first, second or third individual doing the breeding, some differences showed up.

Surprisingly, 86.4% of the third matings were at 80%-plus farrowing rate with 10.8% at 90%-plus farrowing rate. This tells us that when a third mating is done, the female is in good, solid, standing heat. We looked at the farrowing rate of the first technician mating the female as the one who is finding the female in heat to start the breeding cycle. If this person is not trained properly, the timing of that first mating will be wrong and have a big effect on farrowing rate.

Chart 2 Farrowing Rate by Technician illustrates the variation on farrowing rate by the 41 AI technicians. The chart is broken down by first and second matings by the same technician, and the first, second or third matings only.

Farrowing rate is a key variable that affects the total number of pigs weaned/mated female/year. Remember that a 4% improvement in farrowing rate can improve the pigs weaned /mated female/year by 1.35 pigs. If you are not recording semen batch numbers and AI technicians doing your breeding, and doing analysis of the information, you’re missing out on two-thirds of the variables involved with farrowing rate.

Most major sow recordkeeping programs allow you to collect and do some evaluation of this data. A key difference in how most records programs look at farrowing rate by AI technician and semen batch code is whether they only look at first mating or only services where all matings are done by the same technician or with the same batch of semen. SMS looks at all services and matings. You need to know what each technician is doing as far as farrowing rate and the effects of a bad batch of semen.

In future articles, we will look at the effect of parity, days of the week breed, hour of day bred, number of services, etc. on farrowing rate.

Key Performance Indicators
Tables 3 and 4 (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 KPIs 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

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Mark Rix and Ron Ketchem
Swine Management Services LLC