How to Artificially Inseminate Gilts and Sows Post Cervically

March 21, 2018

As a breeding technician, you are only good as the tools you use and how accurately you detect sows in heat. Conventional artificial insemination, or AI, has been a heavily utilized tool since the 1990s to make use of new, superior genetics at a potentially lower cost than natural-service systems, reduce the risk of disease transmission, and improve conception rates. However, since the 2000s, a new tool has been developing.

Post-cervical artificial insemination, or PCAI, can be used to continue to lower semen dose, improve genetic potential, and improve conception rates. PCAI is an insemination tool that allows for semen to be deposited into the uterus, which is closer to the location of the eggs. To do this, a special catheter is used that has two pieces, an outer rod that is like a conventional AI catheter, and a smaller diameter inner rod, that can pass through the cervix and into the uterus.

Video Transcript

Dr. Sarah: Hi, welcome to our Take 5 lesson on best PCAI practices.

A big thanks to our Take 5 sponsor Neogen.

In this demonstration we will be using Neogen's PCAI catheters for insemination. Today we will be working with Dr. Kara Stewart an expert in reproductive management of farm animals at Purdue University. She is a PCAI expert.

Well, hello Dr. Stewart how are you?

Dr. Stewart: Hi, Dr. Sarah, I'm doing well glad I can help out today.

Dr. Sarah: Great! Dr. Stewart will help walk us through the process and give you tips for using Neogen's PCAI catheters. Are you ready to get started?

Dr. Stewart: I'm ready when you are!

Dr. Sarah: Let's start at the beginning, Dr. Stewart, what does PCAI anyway?

Dr. Stewart: So PCAI or Post Cervical Artificial Insemination is a process where we breed sows by depositing semen into the uterus which is closer to the area where the eggs are located compared to conventional AI. We use a special catheter that has an outer rod and that is similar to a conventional AI rod in that it has a smaller diameter inner catheter that actually passes through the cervix and into the uterus of the sow.

Dr. Sarah: An advantage is that PCAI can be used to facilitate lower doses of semen per insemination and faster insemination times. This allows the best boars to inseminate more females which saves money per insemination and has the possibility of saving labor time.

Dr. Stewart: That's right Dr. Sarah! So during PCAI the boar is not required during the insemination process. He's only going to be needed to heat check your sows and then during the insemination you can gently squeeze the semen through the bag through the catheter to speed up the process.

Dr. Sarah: This difference is important for us to understand isn't it? One of the biggest differences, physiologically, is that during traditional AI, you want the cervix of the sow contracted around the catheter and for the sow's uterus to all the semen through the catheter into her cervix. For this to occur the sow needs stimulation from the bore as well as continued stimulation from the AI technician.

Dr. Stewart: That's right, Dr. Sarah, so the boar will only be needed to do the heat checking. When we're actually doing the insemination we will want the cervix to be very relaxed which will occur about 15 minutes or more after the boar has finished heat checking. So the ideal time to do PCAI is between 15 and 40 minutes after heat checking.

Dr. Sarah: Great! Well let's go through the steps.

Step 1.

Prepare equipment.

Dr. Stewart: We're going to be using Neogen's catheters today which are color-labeled so you know which type that you're going to pick up so the pink Neogen catheters are used for sows and the green Neogen catheters are used for gilts. So you'll need to determine which animals you're on your way in to breed

You're also going to need to get some clean dry paper towels as well as some non-spermicidal gloves.

If your farm uses lubricant you will need to get that prepared as well. Here on Purdue's farm we do not use lubricant but if you do just apply that according to your standard operating procedures.

Dr. Sarah: Of note is that when performing PCAI in the gilts the protocol is the same as in sows with a few exceptions.

First since the cervix and the uterus of the gilt is much smaller than that of a post-wean sow passing of the inner AI rod can be challenging companies are producing catheters specifically designed for gilts that accommodate their smaller reproductive tract. If you are breeding gilts be sure to gather the right rods at this phase.

Step 2.

Heat check

Dr. Stewart: A sow that's in standing heat is going to lockup and basically be very rigid and her front and back legs to bear the weight of the person heat checking. Her ears will also tend to perk up and her vulva may be reddened and swollen with a little bit of mucus in it.

Dr. Sarah: Then we wait about 15 to 20 minutes to allow that cervix to relax before we attempt to inseminate.

Dr. Stewart: So while you wait this is when you should go gather your semen from the semen cooler. So you want to be cautious to only bring in the number of semen doses that you need to inseminate. It's also a really good time to double-check the temperature on those semen coolers.

Dr. Sarah: Step 3.

Clean the sow or gilt's vulva

Dr. Stewart: So right before you go in to inseminate you want to clean the sow or guilts vulva. Make sure you remove any manure and just use a clean dry paper towel.

Dr. Sarah: Step 4.

Prepare the Neogen PCAI catheter for insertion.

Dr. Stewart: To prepare the Neogen catheter for insemination gently open the package and remove the catheter at the end. You want to be sure that you keep the catheter clean and don't let it come in contact with any dirty floors or dirty bars around the sow. If your farm uses lubricant now would be the time to apply it to the outer AI rod.

Dr. Sarah: Step 5.

Insert the Neogen PCAI catheter into the sow.

Dr. Stewart: So when you're ready to insert the Neogen catheter you're gonna want to have non-spermicidal gloves. We have Neogen's gloves on today.

Use your fingers to gently spread open the vulva.

Insert the catheter at a 45 degree angle and then straighten it out to head into the cervix. You'll gently turn the catheter as you enter the cervix and pull back gently to make sure you're locked in.

Dr. Sarah: Now you will slowly push the inner catheter in half inch intervals. You should feel the catheter move along the rigid cervical folds until you insert the intrauterine catheter completely into the sow.

If you encounter trouble when passing the inner rod in a gilt, you can simply remove the inner rod and breed conventionally using the outer rod.

Step 6.

Attach the semen bag or tube to the catheter and deposit the semen.

Dr. Stewart: So using temperature-controlled semen, you can go ahead and attach either the tube or the bag to the end of the outer AI catheter and gently squeeze to deposit the semen into the sow's uterus.

So if you see any backflow or any of that semen coming back out the sow's vulva on to the floor, then you need to stop what you're doing and begin to manually stimulate the sow like you would during conventional AI and let her accept that semen into her uterus.

Dr. Sarah: If you are using a multi-dose semen bag, attach the dosage gun tip to the catheter and squeeze one dose slowly into the catheter.

Dr. Stewart: When you're inseminating the sow you want to hold the bag or the dose up at a higher angle in order to try to prevent backflow from happening and get the semen to deposit into her uterus. So you want to ensure that you get the entire dose of semen into the sow. Sometimes you'll have to actually remove the bag or the tube and put a little air in it in order to be sure you get the entire dose of semen through the catheter. You'll know you've got it all in there when you see the bubbles of air starting to pass through the catheter.

Dr. Sarah: Step 7.

Remove the Neogen PCAI catheter.

Dr. Stewart: So once you're done depositing semen and ready to remove the catheter you just put the end of the catheter down towards the ground gently pull the whole entire unit out of the sow and inspect the catheter for any leakage between the two AI rods or the tip of the catheter for any signs of blood.

Dr. Sarah: Step 8.

Record completion according to your farms protocol.

At this farm once you remove the catheter, we will mark this sow and move down the line to the next for insemination. Be sure to mark the sows record as well according to your farm's protocol.

A key production tip is that you can inseminate up to five sows at the same time as you do not need to stimulate the sows with flink touching or back pressure. This saves you time during insemination and helps increase productivity on farm.

Step 9.

Train employees on proper PCAI technique to get the best results.

Dr. Stewart: As the procedures for doing PCAI are very different from conventional it's always important to train your employees to ensure the greatest success. Though it typically takes about two days of training to get employees competent at performing PCAI and you want to make sure that they can pass the inner catheter through the cervix in order to deposit that semen in the uterus accurately.

So I hope this helps you better understand PCAI and how it can improve productivity on your farm.

Dr. Sarah: Well, I think that covers it. Thank you so much for your time and expertise, Dr. Stewart.

Dr. Stewart: No problem, Dr. Sarah! See you later!

Dr. Sarah: And thank you to our PCAI sponsor Neogen.

Technique matters when it comes to conception rates and total born. We appreciate your commitment to training on-farm staff.

Until next time be safe and do good work!

[A special thanks to Neogen®, Pork Avenue™ Training Portal, AgCreate Solutions, Inc., and Purdue University.]

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Category: Tech Tips