We are in peak breeding season for our 4-H show pigs. We have our show season in January and February. Show pigs are primarily 6-8 months old when shown for market or breeding shows. This is when they reach maturity and are at their absolute best. In order to get pigs the correct age, we count backward to when we’d like them born, which is late July or early August. Then we count backward again the 114 day gestation period. That leads us to the first week of April that we need to breed.
We choose the boars we think will cross with our females and make the “perfect pig”. The boar studs are primarily in the Midwest. Once we have everything set up, we call and order semen from the boars we have chosen. It ships overnight on cooler packs. It should be maintained at 65*F. Once we receive it from UPS, we transfer it to our wine cooler (aka “swine cooler”).
We heat check the sows and gilts twice a day. If they are standing, we breed in 24 hours for the sows, and in 12 hours for the gilts. Here is the breeding process:
We allow our teaser boar to roam the alleyway among the females. He talks to them and we watch for standing heat. When they stand to pressure on their back or attention from the boar (including boar smell), we begin to breed. Here is a picture of our gilt “Maple” with her ears pinned back.
Here is an AI rod. The tip locks into the cervix.
We apply sterile lubricant to the tip of the rod, and insert it at a slight upward angle until the cervix is engaged.
Then the semen tube is connected to the open end. You cannot force the semen into the uterus, the sow must pull it in with uterine contractions. You can see this one as the semen has been tinted with a red dye. (For identification purposes)
The sow should be out of heat 12 hours after the final breeding. They ovulate near the end of the heat cycle.
We use a new rod with each breeding, which creates a little garbage. Then I take the semen tubes and check for live sperm under my microscope. Here’s a little peek:
Now we just wait 21 days to see if anyone cycles back.
Wish us luck!!