The explosive growth in use of artificial insemination (AI) in the pork industry causes Don Levis to get quite a few telephone calls.

When it comes to AI, producers often ask the University of Nebraska extension swine specialist the same basic question. Where should I obtain boar semen?

The choices are almost mind-boggling. There's the on-farm boar stud, the cooperative boar stud, a fee-for-service boar stud and the commercial boar stud. To help commercial producers make the best selection for their operation, Levis developed a computer program which is on the Internet at Ianrwww.unl.edu/ianr/anisci/swine/levis/.

Myriad Of Choices An on-farm boar stud is often a producer's first choice for obtaining boar semen, remarks Levis. But there are many roadblocks to success, chief among them are finding, training, motivating and keeping top help and biosecurity of farm and laboratory for semen processing.

If that doesn't pan out, a group of four to five producers may get together and develop a cooperative boar stud, he explains. Key problems include clearly defining the health protocol and the biosecurity procedures for bringing in boars.

"The fee-for-service boar studs are in a way like a commercial stud, except that they are just providing a service. The boars are still owned by the producers, but the management and the expertise are all handled by the stud," points out Levis.

If the commercial producer decides he's through messing with boars altogether, then he can choose from a growing number of reputable commercial boar studs for his AI needs, states the Nebraska swine reproductive expert.

Computer 'Help' Program To help producers wade through all the choices, and decide which is the most cost-effective means for obtaining semen, Levis elected to develop a computer spreadsheet utilizing Microsoft Excel 97. He assembled six workbooks. The studs workbook is composed of seven worksheets that are linked together. They are named: Production, OnFarmStud, Cooperative, FeeForService, CommercialStud, Summary and SEWModel.

The Production worksheet tallies animal inventories and productivity values to be used in the other worksheets.

The OnFarmStud worksheet lets the user enter data for boar isolation, AI equipment and supplies, construction of a boar stud facility, purchase price of boars, feed costs, and labor requirements to operate the stud. The output provides an estimate of the minimum cost to produce semen from an on-farm stud.

Levis explains the Cooperative worksheet lets the user enter the same type of data as for the OnFarmStud worksheet. The output is the estimated minimum cost to produce semen from a cooperative stud.

In the FeeForService worksheet, the user can input data for isolation fees, projected number of usable semen doses per month per boar and projected stud fee charges per dose of semen. The result or output is the estimated minimum cost to obtain semen from a fee-for-service stud.

In addition, the worksheet allows the user to estimate gross income minus AI cost if fee-for-service semen produces an increase in farrowing rate and litter size.

In the CommercialStud worksheet, the producer/user enters data for farrowing rate, litter size, semen delivery cost, feed efficiency, feed costs and carcass premium. The computer program estimates cost to obtain semen from a commercial stud. Gross income minus AI cost can also be determined if commercial semen provides an improvement in farrowing rate, litter size, feed efficiency and carcass merit.

The Summary worksheet summarizes the key factors for the four options of obtaining boar semen.

The SEWModel worksheet compares the four different semen sources when selling segregated early weaning piglets. A number of production variables can be added, including production parameters, feed costs, market prices, facility costs, labor costs and interest rates.

Other workbooks include: * Boarstud. Enter the estimated cost to construct and operate a boar stud. It does not include the cost of boars.

* ComSemen. Compare the cost of semen from an on-farm boar stud to a commercial boar stud.

* Equipment. Estimate the cost of AI equipment and supplies.

* INV-PROD. Calculate animal inventories and productivity.

* SEWModel. Evaluate various types of scenarios when operating an SEW system.

Levis stresses no one semen option will work in all cases. That is why all the workbook programs are necessary.

For more information on the boar stud template programs, Levis can be reached at UNL, Animal Science, C206k, Animal Sciences, 38th & Fair, Animal Sciences BL, Lincoln, NE 68583; phone, (402) 472-6445; fax, (402) 472-6362; e-mail, ansc307@ unlvm.unl.edu.