Predicting the productive capacity and seminal quality of young boars destined for artificial insemination is key for breeding companies, as there are limited places in boar studs, their introduction process is long and costly, and they must comply with established quality standards.
References by Schulze et al. (2014) suggest that at 7 months of age (approximate age when seminal collections and their analysis start after boars enter the AI centres), approximately 37% of all boars destined for artificial insemination do not meet the minimum quality standards. The application of FertiBoar technology prior to the delivery of these animals to the AI studs would be able to reduce this percentage to approximately 3.7 %.
FertiBoar technology, developed by PIC together with IFN Schönow, provides the ability to predict semen quality based on a series of ultrasound images and a convolutional neural network, which describes functional tissue characteristics via greyscale parameters. This information feeds into a classification algorithm that predicts boar ability. The result is a computer programme developed and continuously improved based on information obtained from images of 1,500 boars and their associated ejaculates.
The boar studs that received boars in which this technology was applied provided semen samples to their andrology reference laboratory, which evaluated the quality of the collected ejaculates. Based on these results, boars were classified as breeding candidates if they produced at least two consecutive ejaculates of sufficient quality out of a maximum of five ejaculates tested.
The results showed that FertiBoar can predict boars with higher seminal quality >90% of the time. Furthermore, the model will increase in accuracy as the volume of boars analysed increases.
FertiBoar technology has been successfully implemented in a first multiplier in Germany since June 2021. The first boars fully tested with this technology were delivered in September 2021. After a process of optimisation of its operation and logistics, it will be implemented in the entire network of PIC boar multipliers in Europe during 2022. FertiBoar is a beneficial technology for breeding companies as it increases the efficiency of transferring high genetic value animals to Boar studs by accurately selecting the animals most likely to produce ejaculates with good semen quality. Additionally, Boar studs served with tested boars will decrease their quarantine costs per boar due to the increased efficiency in the utilisation of these places, increasing their total production levels as a result due to a higher predictability in the census of productive boars.
Finally, breeding farms working with AI centres using this technology will benefit from a higher quality of the doses used that is sustained over time, allowing optimisation of fertility and litter size.