Why are we worrying about the price of semen?

John Carr of Carrs Consulting and Mark Howells of Howells Veterinary Services consider the economics of insemination

The majority of pig producers now purchase or collect their own AI semen, and either way a major concern is the price paid for each dose. But is this rational?

Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean the semen you buy is good value for money; it’s actually worth paying more to get the benefits of good genetics.

Most producers only see AI as a way of getting their sows and gilts pregnant. They know it’s much cheaper than using a natural mating, and many will do their utmost to get the cost as low as possible.

However, breeding costs shouldn’t be the primary consideration when choosing semen. You should always have the finishing pig that will be produced in the back of your mind; it’s the food conversion capability and the conformation – P2, lean meat % and meat quality – that you really need to think about.

And don’t forget, choosing quality semen can increase the output per batch farrowing place from 10 to 12 pigs weaned, which has a direct effect on productivity and profitability.

And even better, the great thing is that these benefits can be added together resulting in an greater reduction in cost of production, helping to maintain the UK herd’s profitability.

We live in a world of competition, and it’s a fact of life that we must reduce our cost of production. Feed is the number one cost, and by reducing the amount we use, we can better compete with chicken, fish and other meats.

We also have to compete for the feed we use in pig production. Take wheat, for example, which has many other uses from human food to feedstock for biofuel. If we can use less, the risk of prices escalating because of shortages of supply diminish.

There are other issues that, while they may appear marginal today, are going to have a greater and greater impact on our production costs in future. Take carbon footprint, for example. Clearly, if we use less feed we reduce the carbon release involved in producing each kilo of great British pork. Another topical area in the same vein is phosphorus utilisation.

We have produced two easy to use Excel worksheets for you to work out the benefits in your own herd that can be downloaded using the links below. Then, talk to your genetics supplier to find out more about its claims for improvement in FCR or numbers weaned for different cost bands of semen and then put the numbers, along with your own herd’s performance figures, in the worksheets to work out the improvements that are possible.

If the UK pig industry is to aim for breeding success, we must start concentrating on the finishing herd to reduce costs.

To download the two worksheets, click on the links below (or right click and select “save target as” to save them to your computer.

Feed conversion worksheethttp://www.pig-world.co.uk/files/Feed_conversion_worksheet.xlsx

Numbers weaned worksheethttp://www.pig-world.co.uk/files/Numbers_weaned_worksheet.xlsx

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