The effects and devastation of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) has focused the need for proper biosecurity, isolation/acclimation (I/A) and herd stabilization.

In general, artificial insemination (AI) is a more biosecure means of introducing genetics.

But multiple semen purchases in a week can potentially expose your herd to disease introduction quite often compared to quarterly or biannual introduction of live replacement stock.

I like my clients to screen their semen suppliers in the same manner they would screen their other genetic suppliers. First and foremost, the purchasing farm must fully understand the health status of their own herd.

The most appropriate way to screen a potential semen supplier is to have your veterinarian talk to the veterinarian overseeing the boar stud's health. The veterinarian-to-veterinarian correspondence is normally the most effective way to gather information and to ensure a good health match between your unit and the stud.

Questions and details your veterinarian should find out include, but are not limited to, the following.

Stud Isolation/Acclimation

  • How often are boars introduced to the boar stud — annually, biannually, quarterly or monthly?

  • What are the boar stud's I/A procedures? How long are they isolated; how long are they acclimated before entering the boar stud?

  • Does the stud have separate I/A facilities for different genetic lines?

  • What vaccination protocols are followed in I/A?

  • What serology or diagnostic testing is performed to ensure clean boars are entering the stud?

  • Where are I/A facilities located in relation to the stud or other hogs?

Health Parameters in the Stud

  • What diagnostic surveillance is routinely performed within the stud to ensure a quality product?

  • Are other tests such as semen polymerase chain reaction (PCR) being performed on regular intervals to monitor PRRS status?

  • What vaccinations are used within the stud?

  • How many genetic lines are housed at the stud? If multiple genetic lines are maintained, do they all go through the exact same stringent guidelines to gain entry into the stud?

  • How close is the boar stud to other hog facilities?

Stud History of Performance

  • Can the stud give you a list of satisfied customers as reference with detailed production records?

  • Has the stud maintained good health status so that semen supply has not been interrupted to clients?

  • Does the stud have a back-up plan, should it go down with a major health issue, to continue supplying semen to clients?

Delivery Systems

  • Does the stud deliver directly to the farm?

  • Does the stud ship through commercial carrier services?

  • Does the stud re-use Styrofoam containers or coolers, and if so, what quality control measures are in place to make sure these items are properly cleaned and disinfected?

  • How are delivery personnel trained, and what protocols are in place for cleaning their vehicles?

Case Study No. 1

Unit A broke with Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) in late January. Diagnostics pointed to incoming gilts in isolation carrying in the TGE virus.

The unit received fresh-delivered semen three times weekly. The boar stud immediately implemented a change in delivery status by providing a separate driver and vehicle to Unit A. Other area clients were notified of the TGE break to beef up biosecurity measures at each of their farms.

Three weeks later, another facility, Unit B, broke with TGE. A separate, off-site drop point for semen was created so drivers from the boar stud did not have to enter Unit B. Later investigation led to the feed delivery system as the most likely source of contamination for Unit B.

In the following weeks, no other units serviced by this stud broke with TGE. The boar stud also remained free of TGE.

Ultimately, what appeared to be a relatively simple, self-contained case of TGE turned into a huge health concern for the servicing boar stud and all of its clientele.

Fortunately, good communication between the boar stud and its clients and quick action in delivery changes helped prevent the spread of TGE virus to other farms and the boar stud.

This example again emphasizes that while semen is “safer” than live animal introduction, other factors such as the number of times semen is brought in and the added risk with delivery vehicles and personnel must keep us all “on our toes.”

By working closely with your veterinarian and having good communication with your semen suppliers, you can help limit these occurrences.