What could be more fun than AI’ing (artificially insemination) your sows first thing in the morning? Well, doing it two mornings in a row of course!
Mark had separated the sows from their 21 piglets last Wednesday. The piglets were 8 weeks old and ready for weaning. The sows will go into heat 3-8 days after weaning and they are re-bred at this time. Mark decided that instead of renting the “boar-friend” he wanted to try AI. When we rent our Berkshire boar in entails Mark driving 45 minutes to get him, loading him up, bringing him here and then keeping him for a few weeks before loading him back up and taking him home. Besides his feed, gas and time it costs us $100 per sow. The upside is it is a pretty sure-fire way to get your sows bred.
AI also will cost $200 total for the two sows. Upside is it is very convenient and you get a VERY high quality boar. The risk is lower fertilization rates if you don’t do it right or if the sperm is not viable.
Back to the sows.
Mark has been checking their backsides for signs of heat. And also testing for what is known as “standing heat”. Meaning, you can walk up to the sow and sit on her rump like she was a pony and she’ll stand there. Like you were a boar and she was being, ummmm, serviced.
Both the sows came into heat at the same time. You AI 1 day after standing heat is first discovered and then the next day after that as well. Mark asked for me to come out and help.
OK, trying to simulate boar foreplay well sloshing around in calf deep winter mud in the cold drizzle is not for the faint hearted! The more foreplay and stimulation during the process the higher the fertility rate and number of piglets. For the sow this means pushing the undercarriage (i.e. teats) very firmly. You’ll know you are doing it right if the sow’s ears “pop” with each push.
First Mark sat on Black Betty and while straddling her nudged at her teats with his boots. I got behind with the AI probe and tube and inserted with a counter clock wise twisting motion. At a point you feel some resistance that you should be able to gently go through and the probe “locks” in with suction. I just couldn’t get to the suction/locking point.
So, Mark and I switched. I draped myself over Betty’s back and banged her teats around with my hands. Mark had no better luck than I did with the suction thing. He inseminated anyways. Right after he did that he was able to get it locked in. Too late for this day’s try.
Next came Rosie Red – the difficult sow. I was flat out a distraction to her. She just wanted her “boar” (Mark). In the end all I did was spritz some Boar Taint spray at her nose and Mark did her all by himself. Which is how it is normally done – solo.
Mark and I decided that while he appreciated an extra hand in the pig pen the sows did not. I was an unknown person in their breeding space. So the next day for the second round of AI Mark went out alone.
A man and his sows. An AI probe, lubricating jelly and bags of chilled semen. Another glorious morning on the farm.