Boars

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for a Boar Stud

Article 1 in a series of 4

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are a set of quantifiable measurements companies use to monitor and improve their overall long-term performance.  The KPI’s used vary across industries and can focus on economic as well as production parameters.  The proper use of KPI’s allows a company to set strategic objectives and gauge their success against peers in the industry.

In this 4-part series we will review several KPI’s that are relevant to the management of a boar stud.  The first article of the series will focus on Average Boar Age, Average Days Rest, Ejaculate Volume and Concentration.

Average Boar Age

Boars in quarantine

Some systems measure the average boar age in months while other systems prefer to measure in days.  The average age of each genetic line in the herd should be monitored separately as the targets can be different for each line.  In general, a stud should have a spread of ages for each line.  This indicates new boars entering the herd (7-10 months age), younger high index boars (11-15 months), Older stable producing boars (16-20 months) and a few mature boars that continue to maintain a high index (21-23 months).  The majority of the herd should be comprised of the younger high indexing and older stable producing boars as the goal is to find the balance between maintaining a high average index for the herd while also taking advantage of the production and semen quality provided by older boars.

Replacement rates, which are necessary to maintain the genetic progress required by the stud customers, have the strongest effect on the average boar age.  Maternal boar lines are typically replaced at up to 100% yearly and for Terminal lines the common range is a 50-75% replacement rate.  This can sometimes be a source of frustration for the production staff as it often takes 2 new boars to replace the production ability of an older established boar.  To manage this, it is best to have smaller but more frequent isolation groups entering the herd to minimize the disruption to the daily production schedule.  As the new boars are trained it is also best to introduce a few of the boars to each production day rather than dumping several new boars onto one production day.

Average Days Rest

The objective is to maximize semen production from each boar without pushing the boars to the point that it negatively affects overall semen quality.  It is commonly recommended that boars below 1 year of age should only be collected once/week, while boars older than 1 year can be collected at 2 times/week.  After a year of age, the terminal lines are generally able to maintain quality and production with 4-5 days rest while maternal lines often need 5-6 days’ rest. 

The number of collection days available has a direct influence on the ability to strike the right balance on the number of days rest.  For instance, if there are only 2 collection days (Monday, Friday or Monday, Thursday (Th)) the ability to manage days rest is limited as boars have only the option of 2-, 3- and 6-days’ rest.  However, if operating on a Monday(M), Wednesday(W) and Friday(F) schedule, management is able to accommodate the needs of all boars with 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-days’ rest.  Finding the right balance between days rest, doses produced per boar per week and overall semen quality is an area of stud management that takes experience to properly develop.  It necessitates the close study of the production ability of each boar and how each boar responds to an increased collection frequency.

Ejaculate volume & concentration

Terminal boars such as Duroc and Pietrain typically have ejaculates of lower volume with higher concentration while Maternal boars, such as Yorkshire and Landrace will generally produce ejaculates of higher volume with lower concentration.

Many factors can affect volume and concentration: age, time of year and days’ rest are a few examples.  Where Average boar age and Average days rest both reflect decisions made by management, ejaculate volume and concentration can be a measurement of the effect of those decisions.  For new boars, Volume and concentration will initially steadily increase over the first 6-8 weeks of collection.  Older boars that are on a regular collection schedule should maintain very consistent numbers and significant deviations to this should be investigated.  If the herd has experienced a disease or environmental stress this will almost certainly be visible in changes in volume and concentration.

From a staff management viewpoint, the average volume and concentration can be very useful during the training of new employees.  Most new collection staff will cause a 2-3 dose drop per collection as the boars are getting used to the collector and the collector is learning the techniques and steps involved in proper semen collection.  By tracking the volume and concentration by collector this information, along with guidance from the manager, can be provided back to the new employee so they can see how they compare to the rest of the crew and allows the manager to quantify any need for improvement. 

Note: The importance of validating that new collectors are properly trained in collection techniques to ensure that all boars are fully collected cannot be overstated.  If boars are not fully collected at each collection, there can be several negative consequences.  First, a boar’s subsequent collection can be negatively affected by the presence of sperm cells that are being reabsorbed which results in the possible rejection of the collection.  Secondly, a boar will be more difficult to collect (slimy, additional fluid in prepuce) and can result in possible contamination of the collection as the technician struggles to properly extend the boar.  Lastly, if enough boars are not fully collected, thereby decreasing the number of doses produced, this can cause the stud to collect additional boars to meet customer needs.  This will decrease the days rest for the herd and if left unchecked can push the stud to the point of over-collection, resulting in poor quality semen and at worst an inability to fulfill customer orders.  Once a stud reaches this point it will take a minimum of 6-8 weeks to recover, depending on the severity and duration of over-collection.

Discussion

The genetic supplier is a very good source of information when seeking to determine what the baseline targets should be for the KPI’s discussed in this article.  However, it is incumbent upon each stud not to rely solely on the information provided but rather to combine this with their own insights gained from observing their individual herd.  Average days rest is a prime example.  As mentioned above, it is generally recommended that boars over 1 year of age can be collected 2 times/week.  However, the observant stud manager will notice that this does not apply equally to all boars.  There will be boars in a herd that simply cannot maintain adequate dose production or adequate semen quality with 2 collections per week no matter their age.  On the other hand, there will be high producing boars younger than 1 year that must be collected at 1.5 times per week to maintain proper semen quality.  It is through a routine review of your herds individual records that you can understand how best to manage the herd as a whole.

Watch for the second article of this series where we will focus on Collections/employee/hour, Average collections / boar / week, Number of doses produced/boar/week and Number of doses sold/boar/week.

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