New trends in production management in European pig AI centers
Reducing the number of spermatozoa per artificial insemination (AI) dose and managing semen in ways to ensure greater quality at the same time represents current challenges with sperm processing in pig AI centers. Based on a multi-year comparative analysis of process steps in different pig AI centers, and complementary experimental studies under standardized laboratory conditions, current process standards for the preservation of boar semen have been updated and new ones developed. Currently, these standards represent an integral part of the quality assurance of 29 European pig AI centers in ten different organizations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Improvement of hygiene management and guidelines for prudent use of antibiotics have become key issues. Furthermore, new quality control tools have been implemented in the processing and transport of boar semen: e.g. refractometry as an easy-to-use tool to estimate extender osmolarity and 'mobile sensing' apps for continuous monitoring of various environmental parameters. Moreover, based on a series of experiments under laboratory and field conditions, guidelines for optimizing the dilution process, and time and temperature management during boar semen processing, have been developed and implemented. Similarly, recommendations for the handling of semen doses during storage have been renewed. Over the years, the efficiency of the quality assurance system has been reflected by a decrease of bacterial contamination and a concomitant increase in the quality of semen doses. In conclusion, science-based quality assurance is an effective way to improve the production performance in pig AI centers, resulting in high quality and economically-priced semen for pig producers. Increasing knowledge of sperm physiology together with computational and technical innovations will continue to develop and modify quality assurance concepts in the future.