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The handling of semen

By Francois du Toit, TOPIGS SA
Handling of semen is a very important aspect in the successful application of the artificial insemination tool in pig farming. There are a couple of aspects that need special attention when using this tool.The temperature of semen in the testicals is stored at approximately 35˚ C. During and after processing, the temperature is dropped to below 18˚ C. Until depositing the semen in the uterus of a sow, the temperature should never be allowed to rise higher than 19.5˚C.
On semen delivery days, farm managers must:

  • inform labour to be on the lookout for the semen delivery van and react when the van is approaching the farm,
  • ensure no unnecessarily delays of the delivery van,
  • take the semen box and immediately store it in the semen storage cabinet – the container as is or unpack the sachets,
  • never leave the box with semen in an office or in the open,
  • report arrival of semen to the person responsible for artificial insemination,
  • do a quality control with a microscope as soon as possible,
  • wash hands before working with semen.

Quality control
Shortly after arrival, one drop of semen must be examined through a microscope with a heat stage at 36 ˚C under an enlargement of at least 10 x 10.
Depending on the temperature of the examine plate, the semen will take a while to liven up. Estimate the percentage live and the type of movement. It should be noted that there are two kinds of sperm movements: a forward movement and a sort of wiggling movement.
The forward movement is qualified as better although it is known that there are boars with only wiggling sperm movement and they still give excellent results.
Semen storage cabinet

  • The temperature of the cabinet must be 16 -to17˚ C.
  • It is good to have a small fan installed in the semen storage cabinet to circulate the cool air.
  • Always have a min/max thermometer in the cabinet and frequently reset the monitor.
  • On farms with frequent power failures, it is advisable to store some water containers in the cabinet. This will ensure that the buffering capacity of the cabinet remains cool for a longer period during a power failure.
  • Do not leave the cabinet door open for long periods.
  • Turn semen sachets once a day.
  • Do not store the sachets next to the heating element or cooling element.


  • Wash hands before insemination.
  • Wipe the vulva with a dry, clean paper towel for each sow.
  • Inseminate only those animals decided on during heat detection.
  • Only remove the number of doses required to inseminate.
  • In summer, do not remove the sachets longer than 30 minutes before insemination.
  • Store sachets in cooler box while inseminating.
  • Prevent direct sunlight on the sachets. Take care that the inseminated sow does not move into the sun while being inseminated. This often happens in open pens.
  • Never return unused sachets to the semen storage cabinet.
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