It's ok to be different!

Welcome to the Pig Pen! September is upon us and that means lots of kids going back to school and National Barrow Show just around the corner! Lots of folks are suffering right now in the south as a result of Harvey, but I have to say I’ve been super-impressed by the response to this tragedy. Lots of regular people volunteering their time, money and personal property to help in the rescue efforts and to get people back on their feet! I think it’s worth noting the difference in culture when something like this happens in Texas as opposed to disasters in other parts of the country. Those Texans just pick themselves up and get to work. I’ve got to admire that kind of attitude and I wish there were more just like them all across the country.

Watching all this transpire on the news and on Facebook made me begin thinking about the differences in culture and differences between individuals. With all the alleged division in our country right now, it’s reassuring to see people from all walks of life chipping in to help out people in need. I think it helps put into perspective the petty differences we argue about on a daily basis. You may not agree with me politically, you may have different colored skin, you may speak a different language, but in the end if you’re suffering and need a hand, I am going to be there to extend it to you. It’s ok to be different. Our differences are what make each of us unique and they should be celebrated, not scorned. While it is always comforting to be part of a group, surrounded by like-minded peers, it’s ok to stand out, or to go unnoticed, to be different from the rest.

I have lots of first-hand experience at being different. You might notice me at the hog shows. I’m the guy walking around the barn in what my daughter calls “a ridiculous shirt”, wearing shorts and worn-out tennis shoes, accompanied by what is likely the only Peruvian person you’ll find at a hog show (my wife) and speaking Spanish to her while sitting in the stands. Oh yes, we get a LOT of odd looks from people not only at hog shows, but anywhere we go in small, rural communities. Let’s face it. There isn’t a lot of racial diversity in Midwest livestock production. When you sit in the stands and speak Spanish to someone, everyone around you seems to think you must be talking about them and they give you lots of dirty looks. Rest assured, we speak Spanish only because that’s the language she is most comfortable with and the easiest way for us to communicate. I can tell you, she feels more uncomfortable than you do being the only Latina in the barn. Except at this last show (IN State Fair). Folks must have thought we were initiating a Peruvian invasion as my wife and I were accompanied by her brother, mom and aunt for the week (they are here visiting for a few months).

Ask my daughter Kristina about our family and she will set you straight. “Daddy is really white, so he’s a York. Mommy is brown, so she’s a Duroc. Logan and I are half Duroc, half York, so we are Dorks!”

Being different can be a good thing in your hog operation too. You don’t always have to be on the cutting edge. Sometimes those who stick their necks out the farthest are the most likely to lose their heads. However it nearly always pays to “think outside the box”. Be different. Have a new or different way of looking at things. Find new solutions to common problems. In your breeding program, don’t be afraid to use that sire that isn’t as popular. Maybe he has an extreme trait that you can utilize in your farm to set you apart while still fitting the trend. Don’t be afraid to try new technologies or to approach someone with a question. The most difficult barriers are the ones you put in your own path due to fear of being ridiculed, scoffed at, embarrassed, etc. Don’t let that stop you! Don’t be afraid to be different!

My wife and I took Kristina to the school open house this week to meet her teacher and see her new classroom. The teacher informed her that she has a “special job” for her this school year. There is a new student that just moved to the area from Mexico and she doesn’t speak any English. The teacher put this new student’s desk right next to Kristina and wants Kristina to be her translator. That’s a pretty big job for a second-grader. I felt a sense of pride as Kristina agreed to do her best to help this new student feel welcome even though she is nervous about her Spanish ability. Later that night, I saw my daughter using an app on her tablet to practice her Spanish in anticipation of this new job next week. I can imagine how scared and insecure that little girl is going to be, starting school for the first time in a new country with a foreign language. I hope my daughter can help ease the transition in some small way.

As you send your kids off to school this fall, they are bound to feel the pressure of “fitting in”. Don’t let that pressure crush their individual spirit. Make them proud of who they are. Let them know they don’t have to be like all the other kids and that the best thing they can do is to be themselves! It’s ok to be different!  


Today’s questions:


Melissa from Bridger, MT

Hi Darin, how are you? Couple questions for you if I could. So I'm getting ready to AI some gilts and sows. When do you breed after seeing them in heat? I feel as if sometimes I'm too early but I don't want to be too late. I had a gilt standing Monday night for boars but she was still standing last night.  So if you were to AI, her when would you of done it?


Hi Melissa,

If you are heat-checking once per day, breed sows and gilts on their first standing heat and give a second service (provided they are still standing) 24 hours later. This is standard procedure in commercial farms achieving conception rate percentages in the mid 90’s and litter sizes of 15+. There’s not much reason to do anything different than that. If however you can heat-check twice per day at 12-hour intervals, I would delay the first insemination by 12 hours and still follow with the second service 24 hours after the first.


Marty from Samford, CO

My neighbor was telling me about some deep insemination rods. He said he uses those and only needs to use one dose of semen. Can you tell me more about this?


Hi Marty,

What your neighbor is referring to is commonly referred to these days as a PCAI rod (post-cervical artificial insemination). We still refer to these as IU (intra-uterine) catheters. The two terms are interchangeable. This is a technology I’ve been working with for nearly 20 years now, dating back to the late 90’s. The idea behind the technology is to deposit the semen past the cervix, at the base of the uterus where semen can then be drawn into both uterine horns by contractions. With traditional AI, semen is deposited in the cervix, not past it, and some of the dose is lost either through backflow or by simply never making it out of the cervix.

In theory, passing the cervix allows you to use a smaller dose size and fewer sperm cells while still achieving the same conception rate and litter size as using a normal dose with traditional AI. Over the years, we have accumulated enough data in large systems to prove that theory true. Many farms are achieving excellent fertility using doses as small as 35ml with 1.5 billion cells per dose.

However, the idea that you can use only one insemination with IU breeding is false. Using an IU catheter will not impact the timing of insemination. You still need to have motile, normal sperm cells present and ready prior to ovulation in order to achieve fertility. You will still likely need to breed your females twice at 24-hour intervals no matter which insemination catheter you use. You also will struggle to pass the cervix on most gilts and some parity-one sows with the IU catheter.

Another theory I’ve heard floated around is that you can “get away with” poorer-quality or older semen if you use the IU catheters. This is also false. Good semen quality is a must no matter which catheter you use. It becomes even more important when dose size and cell count are reduced.

Finally, to address the issue of splitting doses. If you are absolutely certain that the semen dose you have contains at least 3 billion motile, morphologically normal sperm cells in at least 70ml of total volume, you may be able to divide a single dose into two and breed with the IU catheter. If however you cannot verify the healthy cell count and if you cannot pass the cervix on your female with the IU catheter, you are going to need a full, normal dose of semen for each insemination.

I spent a number of years developing the catheter line for Continental Plastic and testing the IU catheter technology. I’ve recently made some tweaks to those original designs and will be marketing the Matriarch catheter line at Cerdos, LLC. We’ll be fully stocked and selling through the online store by mid-October. Meanwhile we offer the Continental line for anyone who wants to try IU breeding.

I also recommend getting a SimpleCount Sperm Kit from our online store in order to check your semen doses before attempting to split doses. You can watch a video demonstration of it from our main page under “products/SimpleCount”.

Thank you for your question Marty. I apologize for the lengthy response!

- Darin

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