Evolution of Hydraulic/Injectable Insemination

GLOBAL - Did you ever think swine AI would be using 400 million spermatozoa and sexed semen?, asks Mark Anderson of Absolute Swine Insemination Co., with additional comments from Dr Grant Walling and Stephen Waite of JSR.
calendar icon 19 February 2013
clock icon 8 minute read

Decades ago, a novel approach to pig breeding was introduced that is nowadays status quo. Yes, we are talking about 'traditional cervical artificial insemination' (or AI).

Although advantages were many, there were skeptics that refused to adapt to the new technology, regardless of its benefits for the farm. Today there are multiple versions of AI catheters, so let's begin by defining the acronyms IUI, DIUI, and a hybrid of IUI and DIUI.

IUI or 'Intra-Uterine Insemination' catheters generally consist of relatively small diameter rigid tubes, inside regular traditional pipettes. This smaller tube is gently pushed through the cervix and directly into the uterus.

While there can be advantages to this method, it has the potential of injuring the animal by scraping or puncturing delicate tissues in the reproductive tract. These dangers can be magnified since this type of pipette also collects a small amount of bacteria laden matter when it is threaded through the cervix. This becomes an even more significant issue with reduced concentration doses!

The cervix's primary role is to keep bacteria and contaminants from entering the uterus and uterine horns (the animal's reproductive tract). Once a foreign substance enters the uterus, the animals are more prone to infections, abortions, smaller litter sizes and lesser farrowing percentages.

Next we have the DIUI, or Deep Intra-Uterine Insemination. This is a very controversial procedure; one that uses a thin flexible tubular pipette that is approximately 1.7 metres in length. The extreme length of this tube allows it to be inserted all the way to the UTJ (uteral tubal junction) where its design allows it to place very small amounts of semen (albeit in only one horn).

Needless to say, this method of breeding might work in clinical trials performed by elite doctors in their trade but this technology is not ready for mainstream use in production farms. Going to such extremes to save a few millilitres of semen hardly justifies the risks and difficulties of integrating this technology into main- stream production farms.

Absolute Swine Insemination Co., LLC (ASIC) combines the performance of DIUI and the safety of traditional cervical inseminations with their hydraulic AMG SeriesTM catheters; and they do it safely and effectively in 'both' horns at the same time.

ASIC's patented technology has a very flexible membrane contained inside their specially designed plastic catheter, that moves forward when a technician squeezes on the semen tube, flat pack, bottle or any semen container in the market today. Since the AMG pipette's membranes turn themselves inside out while moving forward, the aforementioned plug of bacteria is actually re-deposited at the very beginning of the cervix. The only substance entering the reproductive tract of your animals is what is inside the semen container.

Immediately below is a picture of a parity 4 sow's reproductive tract. This animal was 'injected' with a dye substance using the AMG Series of catheters. After injecting the dye, the reproductive tract was removed and opened. As you can see, the dye advanced up both horns to the UTJ instantaneously without any injury or risk to the animal.

The next picture is also of a parity 4 sow bred using a traditional foam tip pipette. As you can also see, the majority of semen is trapped in the cervix and some has advanced a short distance up the horns. The semen still has a long way to travel prior to reaching the UTJ awaiting ovulation; but more importantly, most of the semen will die along this journey due to phagocytosis.

It is ASIC's immediate injection of semen into the UTJ that sets the AMG Series catheters apart from all the rest and allows for very low concentrations of spermatozoa to be used successfully. This novelty opens the door for advancements in technologies from companies like JSR Genetics; a leader in low dose, high value, sexed semen programs.

While many in the industry talk about 'low dose inseminations', it is more important to discuss how and where the genetic material is delivered into the reproductive tract; AND, what is the desired outcome from the genetic material being deposited?

The volume of the extended dose of semen used in IUI or DIUI inseminations still plays a critical role. In nature, a normal ejaculate is 250 to 300ml (on average), which is already far more than today's standard of 70 to 80ml. An adequate volume of fluid is needed to carry the spermatozoa to the UTJ, especially in some of the older parity animals. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to maintain a volume of 70ml when extending semen, even in the lower concentrations to allow for not only the hydraulic aspects of the AMG catheter to function, but also to carry the semen to its final destination; the uteral-tubal junction. Reducing the concentration of spermatozoa to 400 million AND the extended solution below 70ml is very risky.

Farms wanting to take full doses of today's semen and repacking them into two new containers resulting in 35ml each are not recommended to do so. (Please discuss the lower concentration doses with your genetic supplier).

JSR Genetics has been using the AMG Series in their units now for approximately nine years! The subsequent research work was conducted using the AMG series catheters, and the industry can look forward to advancements in sexed semen and successful embryo transfers accomplished with the aid of new catheter technology from Absolute Swine Insemination Co., LLC.

Following are some statements from JSR's Head of Science Stephen Waite and Managing Director, Dr Grant Walling.

Advances in AI - More to achieve? - by Stephen Waite, Head of Science, JSR Genetics

"The role of AI, in delivering the 'best of the best' genetics - and farrowing rates of up to 95 per cent - is already firmly established as pivotal to the success of the pig industry. So how much more is there to achieve? Can Research and Development yield real positive benefits? In our experience, the answer would be yes; on-going initiatives at JSR Genetics are offering pig producers improvements now - and plenty to look forward to.

"One such project is the viability of offering sex selected semen, which would be a huge step forward for the pig industry. The potentially achievable, and preferable, split would be eight gilts to two boars.

"Having started with a 100 million sperm dose, then 200 million and 400 million, all inseminated using Absolute Swine Insemination Co.'s AMG Series DIUI catheters, we are confident of proving that using a lower dose will work without compromising production," says Stephen.

"Once we can ascertain an optimal low dose for pigs - and we suspect this may be around 400 million - we will carry on our work with the University of York, who are currently involved in research with leading flow cytometer manufacturers, to make that dose as easy as possible to sex. Every year, sexing cells is getting faster, say by a factor of 10. Now new chemicals that bind onto the male/female cells to make them easier to sort by weight are opening up yet another promising avenue for research. Just one breakthrough could revolutionise the industry," said Mr Waite.

Deeper innovation for insemination technologies? - by Dr Grant Walling, Research and Genetics Director, JSR Genetics

"In order to keep up with the developments elsewhere in the industry such as more regular use of frozen AI and the use of lower semen concentrations as well as potential new technologies such as semen sexing and embryo transfer, catheters have been developed to allow ever deeper insemination.

Some of the concerns over deep insemination catheters have been the potential damage to the reproductive tract using the long rod attached to the catheter. The Absolute AMG Series DIUI insemination catheter has now overcome these concerns by using a balloon-type membrane at the end of the catheter instead of the long rod. Without a pointed end, it is therefore not possible to damage the tract and the membrane simply navigates its way through the tract by gently moulding its shape to that of the tract of the sow. Hence, a relatively simple but truly innovative modification has overcome one of the major concerns many production managers had of their staff using deep AI catheters.

The benefit is that the semen is deposited deeper in the inter-uterine tract at the uteral tubal junction rather than in the cervix. Concentrations can be reduced to 500 million sperm per dose in contrast to the 2.5 billion used using conventional catheters; this allows farms to run with fewer boars and allows farms to make more inseminations from the same boar reducing variability in the progeny. In addition to using fewer boars, it may be an opportunity to use boars of a higher genetic merit. It also offers the opportunity to use frozen semen which due to the mortality of the sperm during the freezing process may be at a lower concentration than the conventional dose.

This is an illustration how technology can advance relatively quickly going forward when the incorporation of one innovation allows the use of several other technologies. It is for this reason why science tends to jump forward rather than a series of small discoveries. Ultimately a relatively small but innovative change has allayed many of the fears of using deep insemination catheters. It is therefore expected that we will see significant uptake of this technology," said Dr Walling.

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