URBANA, Ill. -- A pilot project at the University of Illinois to standardize and expand the use and shipment of boar semen in frozen form recently received $69,500 in funding from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.



The funding comes through the department's AgriFIRST grant program, which is part of the Governor's Opportunity Returns Initiative.



The pilot project for an Illinois Certified Frozen Boar Semen Program seeks to expand the use of frozen semen, which is capable of being transported over greater distances, and at the same time produce independent and reliable standards to ensure the health and fertility qualities of the product. There has been a dramatic increase over the past 10 years in use of artificial insemination to breed swine.



"Today, about 99.5 percent of boar semen is shipped as a liquid fresh product," explained Rob Knox, U of I Extension swine reproduction specialist and co-leader of the project with Sherrie Clark, a faculty member in the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine. "The liquid product has a very short shelf life which creates shipping and timing problems.



"We thought that a frozen product, while giving up a little fertility, would open new opportunities to ship domestically and world-wide."



The key, he added, is to establish independent testing that ensures the product's value.



Knox and Clark will use their labs to determine the fertility level of the frozen semen and independent labs will run tests on health-related issues. The pilot project also includes collaboration with three Illinois commercial genetic suppliers and three Illinois genetic exporters.



"Neither the U of I labs nor the independent labs will have any stake in the businesses, so the independence is assured," he said. "In the future, the semen may come from a number of private commercial suppliers in Illinois."



The Illinois Certified Frozen Semen Product information will be posted on the Web through the Market Maker site.



"This is a pilot project for one year, and we believe it could have relevance for swine producers in Illinois," said Knox. "This project will determine the value of an Illinois certified frozen boar semen product with multiple health levels for international and domestic value. This project is highly relevant to the Illinois agricultural industry, due to the large number of swine produced in the state, the significant youth projects involving swine and the Illinois show pig industry.



"The outcomes of this project could lead to a significant increase in the exportation of valuable semen to international markets and open the door for new sales of certified semen in the domestic youth and show pig areas."



SOURCE: News release from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.