DARD MANAGEMENT NOTES: Pigs

Check the temperature of your AI storage box every day

Check the temperature of your AI storage box every day

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Semen storage temperature: Rough handling, changes in temperature and exposure to light all affect the quality of pig semen.

It is therefore important to handle semen carefully and store it at the right temperature. The ideal storage temperature is 15-17 degrees centigrade with both higher and lower temperatures affecting quality. If it is too warm sperm use up the nutrients much quicker reducing shelf life. If it is too cold sperm are less active and may even die.

During a recent farm visit I was reminded of how important storage temperature is and the effect of not getting it right on conception rate. On this County Armagh unit the conception rate of sows was exceptionally good. However, over a short period of time an increase in sows repeating caused the conception rate to drop by 10%. Like the rest of us the initial reaction of the producer was to blood test the sows as he thought disease was to blame. However, the blood tests came back clear indicating disease was not the cause. He then checked the temperature of the AI storage box and was shocked to discover it was only 11 degrees. After taking the box apart he found the fan and heating element covered in dust. Even though the box seemed to be working as the fan was drawing in air it was unable to maintain the correct temperature due to the build up of dust. After giving the storage box a ‘spring clean’ the temperature of the box is now at a steady 15 degrees. I am also pleased to say that after ‘spring cleaning’ the box the conception rate of the sows immediately improved by 10%.

There are three things we can learn from this:

Storage temperature of semen is critical

Check the temperature of the storage box every day using a minimum/maximum thermometer

‘Spring clean’ your AI storage box on a regular basis

Small changes make a difference

The same County Armagh producer also told me that his sows were slow to come on heat. Weaning takes place on Thursday on this unit and only half the sows were on heat on Monday. The rest did not come on until Tuesday, Wednesday and even Thursday. Weaning day on this unit is Thursday. This was of concern to the producer as both research and on-farm experience shows that the slower sows are coming on heat the less fertile they are with a lower farrowing rate and numbers born.

On this unit weaned sows were fed sow ration once a day from Friday to Sunday. Aware of the importance of feeding sows well from weaning to service the producer decided to feed the sows twice on Saturday. Since making this change over 90% of sows are now on heat on Monday with most of the rest on heat by Tuesday. This shows that small changes can make a big difference. If you have a problem on your unit or performance is not as good as it could be, a very small change may be all that is needed to solve the problem or improve performance. The following quote is very appropriate - ‘by changing nothing, nothing changes’.

Exporting slurry

It is the time of year that pig slurry is starting to move off units. A requirement of the Nitrates Action Programme is that a record is kept of slurry exports. The following is a reminder of the information needed:

Date slurry moved

Type of slurry

Quantity of slurry exported

Nitrogen content of slurry (standard figure is 3 kg per cubic metre)

Total nitrogen exported

Name of person drawing the slurry

Name of person receiving the slurry

Name of person donating the slurry

The new Nitrates Action Programme 2015-2018 requires that details of slurry exports are submitted each year to the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency (NIEA) by 31 January of the following year. This means if you export slurry in 2015 you will have to let NIEA know export details by 31 January 2016.