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Absolute Technology: Setting New Standards in Artificial Insemination

1 January 2005, at 4:53pm

ASIA - There has been little change in artificial insemination technology since it was introduced over 40 years ago. Isa Q. Tan reports for 'Asian Pork' reports that recently however, Absolute Swine Insemination Co LLC (ASIC) has come up with a system that its inventor promises will change the standards of artificial insemination.

For the most part, deep AI has been a pet of veterinarians and a handful of specialised breeders,” says Mark Anderson, inventor of the new rods and consultant of Absolute Swine Insemination Co LLC (ASIC).

Mark Anderson Absolute Swine ASIC
Mark Anderson, inventor of the AbsoluteSOW and AbsoluteGILT and consultant of ASIC

“ASIC is changing all that through the introduction of the ‘Absolute Swine Insemination System’, a truly novel approach that anyone can use, offering promise to bring today’s efficiencies and profits to new highs!

What was once considered impossible for most farms; is now becoming a reality at many Asian, US, European, and Canadian farms that are pioneering this innovative new approach. What we are referring to is weaning 25 to 30 pigs per year, per sow!”

Safe and Easy

So, what makes the ASIC technology different? For one thing, it is safer and easier to use.

At first glance, the new deep AI catheters developed by Mark Anderson, look similar to other AI catheters. A closer look however, will show some interesting differences.

Unlike other traditional catheters, AbsoluteSOW and AbsoluteGILT are made of flexible plastic with a foam tip, inside of which is balloon-like latex membrane that turns itself inside out when semen is squeezed into the rod. The AbsoluteSOW, is pink in color and has a 6.5-inch (16.5cm) membrane; while the AbsoluteGILT, is purple in color, and has a 4.5-inch (11.5cm) membrane allowing for more complete penetration to the uterus.

“Both membranes are designed to create a pathway traversing the entire length of your animal’s cervix, where once they have deployed, they are configured to automatically open inside the uterus of your animal to leave behind a full dose of semen directly in the uterus where it will have the most effect,” notes Anderson.

During insemination, the catheters are pushed to the animal’s cervical opening. When the semen is introduced, the latex membrane weaves its way into the cervical canal. Because of the membrane’s flexibility, it follows the natural pathway of the pig’s reproductive tract, eventually ending inside the uterus where the semen is deposited. This flexibility makes the catheter safe and easy to use.

sow insemination ASIC
Mark Anderson of ASIC inserts an AbsoluteSOW catheter on a relaxed sow
sow insemination AI ASIC
A catheter locked into a sow as it awaits insemination
sow insemination ASIC
The catheter is slowly pulled out of the sow after the semen is completely deposited into the uterus

Anderson points out that with conventional deep AI catheters, there is a real danger of damaging the pig’s reproductive tract and injuring the animal, especially if the insemination is done by someone not specially trained for AI.

“Other deep AI or trans-cervical catheters have a smaller straight or semi-rigid catheter inside which is pushed into the uterus when the semen is squeezed in,” he said.

“And these rod inside a rod catheters are not flexible, unlike the latex membranes in our rods. The industry calls the other catheters ‘poke and hopes’ because after poking in the catheters, you hope that the animals get pregnant and that they are not injured during the process.”

This could lead to litter loss, sterility, even death of the animal. The Absolute catheters have another plus factor. All catheters, when pushed into the vagina to the cervix, will collect the muck and bacteria that the cervix is designed to keep out of the uterus,” explains Anderson.

“And with other deep AI catheters, if you’re successful in getting through the cervix to the uterus, the first thing that is pushed in when the semen is squeezed from the bottle would be the plug of muck and bacteria that has been collected at the tip of the rod. The cervix is meant to keep all these out.

“However, with our catheter, while it too collects the muck and bacteria at the tip; when the membrane goes forward as the semen is squeezed in, the plug of muck in the end is thrown out to the side at the beginning of the cervix. So there is still the entire length of the cervix to act as a filter and the only thing that goes into the uterus is the clean tip of the membrane and the semen.”

The catheters are also easy to use. The traditional AI insemination will have the boar in front of the sow, sometimes, sandbags placed on top of her and another technician to massage the animal to simulate her for contractions. The Abrods are different: they require no boar in front, no stimulation and many times the sows are inseminated during the heat cycle when she is lying down.

Rather than inseminating right away after inserting the rods, Anderson said waiting a few minutes allows the animals to relax, making it easier to squeeze the semen into the rod and deploy the membrane.

“You don’t really waste any time, what you do is insert a catheter into one sow and then go on and insert catheters to the next several animals.Then go back to the first sow, which would’ve already had the time to relax and ready to be inseminated. You could actually inseminate the sow in less than one minute.

“Of course there are some problem animals, especially the gilts, whose cervix is extremely tight; When this happens, leave the catheter inside her, remove the semen container and move onto the next animal. Go back to the problematic animal after a few minutes and repeat the process again. You must be very careful not to break the rod’s lock in the cervix, otherwise the insemination will fail, you will get back-flow wasting the semen.”

Changing Protocols

The current practice in conventional AI is to inseminate gilts immediately when the first standing heat is observed and the sows 12 hours after the first standing heat is observed. The follow up insemination is done after another 12 hours. This is because the semen is deposited only in the cervix and it would take up to six to seven hours for the semen to travel through the cervical canal into the uterus.

With the Absolute technology, because the semen is deposited directly into the uterus, a change in timing protocols is necessary. Dr Glenn Zabala of Absolute Swine Insemination Philippines (ASIP) explains.

“With our ‘Squeeze and Please’ technology, we breed during refractory heat. So when we breed, there is no boar present and no stimulation like back patting is done to the sow or the gilt. The first insemination for gilts is done up to 12 hours after the first standing heat, and for the sows, the schedule is 24-36 hours after the first standing heat is observed. Then the second dose is served 8-12 hours later depending on the work schedule to the farm.

“Evaluations show the first insemination must be done prior to the expected ovulation time, in order to effectively reach the matured eggs when they are released from the oviducts into the uterine horns. In sows, ovulation happens during the last third of the heat cycle; usually about 40 hours after the true onset of standing heat in the animal.

“Meanwhile, sperms normally can last from 24-48 hours, or an average of 36 hours in the reproductive tract of the female animal. Since Abrods deposit the semen directly into the uterus, these factors compel us to change normal breeding schedules by waiting 24-36 hours for the first service on sows. Because of the gilt’s shorter heat cycle, the insemination is done sooner

Dr Zabala emphasised the importance of following their timing protocols, because it allows the semen to be in the uterus at the time when ovulation of the sow or gilt is at its peak. This would mean higher chances of pregnancy. On the other hand, by not following the correct timing protocol, there is a very high likelihood that the system will fail or at the very least, the results will be less than expected. Meanwhile, Dra. Jo Ann Hachuela of ASIP points out a major factor in successful breeding using their technology is proper heat detection.

“Proper heat detection is critical because this will give you the correct starting point for your insemination. Otherwise, either you won’t be able to inseminate at all, or the results would be less than optimal and you’ll get low pregnancies, lower farrowing rates and smaller litter sizes.”

Over the last two years, ASIC has conducted farm trials around the world and the results have been impressive. Many farms have reported that their pregnancy percentages have shot up to at least 95 per cent, while litter sizes have gone up by as much as 1-2 piglets.

“In the farms that have implemented the technology, we’ve been able to achieve these results,” reports Anderson.

“With this technology, farms are actually able to lower costs and at the same time increase profits.”

Despite the successful insemination using their technology however, Anderson advises against cutting the doses in half to save money.

“We strongly recommend using full doses, and inseminating twice. The smaller amount of semen is harder to squeeze properly, and the smaller amount of sperm may result in slightly fewer pregnancies and slightly smaller litters. Even small losses, such as one less pig getting pregnant, or one less pig per litter will cost you more in profit at market time than your comparatively small savings in semen cost.

Taking Leaps

After barely two years in the market, the Absolute catheters have made leaps and bounds. They are now sold in more than 20 countries, and the list is growing.

Meanwhile, Anderson reports that trials and evaluations continue to be conducted in farms around the world, and the results coming in continue to prove that their technology can work wonders.

“You must understand, of course, that all results will depend upon a number of factors. As you already know, the type of animals and their genetics, the accuracy of determining heat, the quality of the semen, the expertness of the technicians, the living conditions, feed, general health and even the season of the year all play a part in determining both pregnancies and litter sizes.”

If the results of their studies are any indication, then the Absolute technology may be breaking barriers in the world pig industry. With pig farmers the world over searching for ways to continue increasing efficiency and profitability, the new Absolute catheters may certainly be worth more than a just passing glance.

Proving the Technology

Jo Ann Hachuela ASIC
Dr Jo Ann Hachuela of ASIP

To prove and confirm the new technology, ASIC and its Philippine Joint Venture Absolute Swine Insemination Products Inc (ASIP) recently began another farm trial in the Philippines in conjunction with RH and Brookside Farms, both owned by Robert Ho, in Tarlac province and invited 'Asian Pork' magazine to observe the process. A total review of conception, farrowing results, and total born and live born results will be presented in a future issue of the magazine.

Both facilities received instructions, protocols, and personal hands-on training from Anderson, Dr Glenn Zabala, and Dr Jo Ann Hachuela, ASIP’s newest addition to the Philippine’s team of experts. To prove the success is not only achievable, but also repeatable, ASIP and its team inseminated 100 per cent of the trial animals in the two locations for one week beginning September 28, 2004.

Following this period, both RH and Brookside AI technicians began a 50 per cent breeding program using the Absolute technology and timing protocols at both farms. The other 50 per cent of the farms’ animals will be used as a control group and bred using their traditional methods, catheters, and timing.

'Asian Pork' magazine is monitoring the evaluation as it proceeds so this control group will act as a comparison of the gains or losses in efficiencies. It will also help determine if disease or poor semen quality enters the test groups at any phase, and where adjustments might be needed.

ASIC
Dr Glenn Zabala (left) with a group of on-farm trainees and the new
AbsoluteSOW and AbsoluteGILT catheters

Original article published in Asian Pork magazine in December 2004/January 2005