Pig semen storage and handling
Everything you need to know about semen storage and handling.
It is important to take care when storing and handling AI doses on your unit. This is because rough handling, temperature shock and exposure to light can all damage semen.
If the storage temperature fluctuates beyond the minimum or maximum recommended figures, motility can fall and sperm agglutination can occur – this is when sperm stick together. If this happens, it decreases the total number of sperm per dose.
Care of semen
- Storage temperature should be within the range of 15–19°C (59°–66°F)
- Semen is extremely temperature sensitive and shelf life is significantly shortened above 19°C
- Viability is reduced and sperm may even suffer cold shock and die below 15°C
- Never store semen in a conventional refrigerator (2–8°C) or at room temperature (>20°C)
Store semen doses horizontally, not in an upright position. This ensures maximum contact between sperm and the diluent in which it is preserved, which maintains nutrient availability to the sperm, and is important to protect semen viability and maximise shelf life.
Semen storage equipment
Make sure the storage cabinet:
- heats/cools effectively and is fan assisted – do not obstruct the fan
- meets the needs of your unit in terms of operating limits. Never exceed the container’s design capacity. (Contact your cabinet supplier for advice)
- is large enough to house doses loosely, allowing air to circulate between stored doses
- has a door or lid that can be kept securely closed
Take remedial action if temperature fluctuates outside the set range while the lid is closed.
Make sure your thermometer:
- is properly calibrated
- is routinely checked for accuracy and recorded and reset regularly (twice a day)
- measures the temperature of liquid and not air
- is kept in the storage container permanently
Semen delivery and transportation
Semen needs to be delivered directly into a suitable temperature-controlled or insulated box, located at the edge of the unit and out of direct sunlight.
- Set up a simple system that logs delivery time and temperatures, and alerts to the arrival of fresh semen so it can be collected immediately
- Consider rejecting semen delivered at a temperature outside the acceptable range
Keeping records and semen usage
Keep a simple filing system to ensure timely use of semen doses. This should include:
- stock IDs and numbers
- delivery date/time
- use-by dates so the oldest semen can be used first (and expired semen discarded)
Extend the filing system to the storage container and organise semen logically for use. For instance, place the oldest at front.
Make sure you identify expired semen and stock shortages before they become a problem.
Calculate the number of doses needed for one hour’s worth of inseminations. A useful rule of thumb is to allow for eight inseminations per person per hour, so the number of semen doses to take out = 8 x the number of inseminators (if insemination rate is known to be different from eight, change the number).
Only remove the required number of doses from storage at any one time. This prevents unnecessary and prolonged exposure of semen to temperature fluctuations and avoids returning unused and possibly damaged semen to storage.
Keep a detailed log of any semen doses returned from the service area to storage; providing semen quality has not been compromised, make sure semen returned to storage is logged, monitored and used quickly.
Transporting to service area
- Use a soft bag with separate compartments, each holding a few doses only, to transport semen to the service area
- Use a temperature-controlled, portable, semen storage box to store semen doses into the service area. Ensure insulated containers are kept between 15–19°C (59°–66°F)
- If possible, store the container in the temperature-controlled semen cabinet so it is always at the right temperature
- Gel packs can help buffer ambient temperatures; store these in the temperature-controlled semen cabinet so they are always at the right temperature
- Keep containers/gel packs clean and in good condition
- Only remove doses as they are needed for insemination, not before the catheter has been introduced
- Always replace the lid promptly and securely
Semen shelf life
Always use semen within its specified shelf life – it's important to know precisely what the shelf life is for each batch.
Order what you need for when you need it and make sure individual doses are clearly identifiable.
Delivered semen is preserved in diluent, which supports the semen for a limited period, e.g. number of days indicated on the label, with day 1 being day of collection and day 2 being day of delivery (this may vary). Using properly stored semen within this time period helps reduce wastage and improve quality.