NCERA_old57: Swine Reproductive Physiology

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCERA_old57: Swine Reproductive Physiology

Duration: 10/01/2014 to 09/30/2019

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Improved technology and knowledge of reproductive processes continue to be high
priority needs identified by the swine industry. A focus group of swine consultants
conducted at the 2011 meeting of the NCERA57 was organized by Dr. Don Levis and
included 5 consultants that together influence decisions on the majority of swine
herds in the U.S. Twelve areas of swine reproduction needing significant research
attention were identified. These are:
1. Improved AI technology to reduce number of sperm per insemination.
2. More tools to improve the utilization of replacement gilts in swine herds and
reduce the inefficiencies caused by gilts with subpar reproductive performance.
3. Tools to maintain reproductive efficiency as sow housing changes are
4. Improving pig quality, survival, and future performance with a focus on the
narrow gap between total pigs born and pigs that get to market.
5. Seasonal Infertility remains a major unsolved problem.
6. Improved quality of inseminations and ovulation inducers.
7. Improvement to mammary gland structure and physiology with regards to milk
production and quality.
8. Semen evaluation methodology and implementation in commercial production
of semen.
9. Strategies for a contingency source of semen when studs break with diseases.
10. Mitigation of virus effects on fertility.
11. Prediction of litter size at 18 and 90 days of gestation to make culling
12. Improved tools to increase sow productive lifetime.

Meeting these research needs is critical. Global competition is ever more intense. If
livestock producers are to maintain and improve the current level of competitiveness
in the global market, it is essential that the efficiency of animal production continue
to improve. Reproduction is key to providing efficient pork production.

The NCERA57 expects to contribute to most of the needs identified by the swine
consultants at our 2011 meeting. In particular new technology to address
improvements needed in gilt management, swine AI and in particular timed AI
procedures with
frozen semen, semen evaluation, and new information to mitigate the adverse
effects seasonal
infertility and the problems with pig quality in large litters are planned.

In addition our relationships with the swine industry, as solidified in biannual
industry symposia and continued efforts such as the 2011 focus group provide
information to keep the committee on track with the stakeholders in the swine
industry. The two-way exchange of information in these venues will be continued
and expanded upon.

Reproductive success remains the core to enhancing the efficiency and profitability
of livestock production. The efficiency of pork production has increased due to
developments in reproductive management including reduced age at puberty,
increased utilization of AI, improved litter size and marked improvements in
producers understanding of environmental and genetic effects on reproduction.

Emerging and rapidly growing technologies in functional genomics, proteomics and
bioinformatics provide techniques that allow rapid investigation of the many
biological processes. Application of these technologies will be essential to enhance
our ability to control and manipulate reproductive processes in farm animals. A
recent investigation by committee members into epigenetic effects from summer
infertility on the developing fetus and subsequent growth and future reproduction
produced unexpected results. The impact of these epigenetic events needs to be
understood with the growing demands of climate change.

The NCERA57 committee is uniquely qualified to integrate new research tools to
continue to solve basic and applied problems in swine reproduction and to
cooperatively interact with the swine industry to exchange information.

Working as a multistate effort the NCERA-57 committee comprises a diverse group
of research and extension scientists with expertise across a broad spectrum of
reproductive biology in domestic food animals. Members of the NCERA-57
committee have had major impacts on understanding of reproductive biology in
swine as a focus but also produce results that impact other domestic farm species.

NCERA-57 provides a unique focal point for scientific exchange and critique,
presentation of new theories and results of experiments, and establishment of
collaborative efforts between participating stations. Continuing advancements and
increased cost in science and technology, makes the forum that NCERA-57 provides
even more essential for developing collaboration, sharing reagents, techniques and
providing a forum for open scientific discussion in the future.

Besides the development of new knowledge, the NCERA-57 has been strengthened
by meeting with state swine reproduction extension specialists and others in
positions that provide direct interfacing with producer and consumer groups.
Extension scientists provide NCERA-57 with a unique opportunity to have input
concerning reproductive problems facing producers and to aid in the transfer of new
technology to the animal industry. The NCERA-57 committee has invited industry
leaders to its annual meeting and sponsors a biennial conference on topics
concerning reproductive efficiency for the swine industry.

The diverse membership and interactions of the NCERA-57 committee functions to
keep committee members informed about the latest theories and technological
advances. Sharing of resources, reagents, techniques and informal critiques of ideas
and research has increased the efficiency of cooperative research and expanded the
abilities of individual research stations. Addition of a forum for interactions with
extension scientists has brought new perspectives to the NCERA-57 and provides an
opportunity for rapid technology transfer to increase reproductive efficiency for
producers across the United States.

A unique aspect to NCERA-57 is the interest of members in the enhancement of the
educational process using research data but also enhancing success of
student learning. Many novel undergraduate teaching resources have been
developed (see Links in NIMSS site for this project) that now impact education in
reproduction and
Animal Science in general,
in both the US and internationally. The interaction within the committee is essential
to the
refinement of these approaches so that they are useful
beyond a single university. Material has also been developed for on-line
undergraduate courses
that was reviewed among committee members.
This approach can now be extended to a producer education series.

Production agriculture continues to be of vital importance to stability of the overall
US economy. Because pork exports account for more than 20% of U.S. pork
production (U.S. Meat Export Federation, 2013) it is essential to maintain
competitiveness in the global market. Our purpose is to sustain the viability of
swine farm operations and to enhance the quality of life for farmers and society.


  1. Improve boar performance through research on: technology to reduce the number of sperm required for maximal fertility in artificial insemination, impacts of seasonal infertility on spermatogenesis, semen and male fertility as well as methods to mitigate these impacts, improved quality of insemination doses of semen through improved semen evaluation, additives and male selection, and evaluation of timed AI procedures with frozen semen.
  2. Improved sow and gilt performance via research on: endocrine control of female reproduction, development of protocols for timing of ovulation and insemination, pubertal development, mammary gland development and physiology, epigenetic impacts on the fetus of summer heat stress and the potential effects of endocrine disruptors.
  3. Increase the basic knowledge of folliculogenesis, spermatogenesis, fertilization, early embryo development, conceptus signaling for the establishment of pregnancy, uterine morphogenesis, endometrial secretion and immune function, and regulation of placental attachment and growth to be applied to future methods for improving reproduction efficiency of swine.
  4. Increase the utilization of the rapidly advancing technology of functional genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics toward research regarding many of the items in objectives 1, 2 and 3.
  5. Provide unique mechanisms for open scientific exchange and dialogue to advance research initiatives of participating scientists, and exchange of information and techniques that enhance teaching and adaptation of technology through the cooperative extension service, higher education and the swine industry.
  6. Unique to this committee is the development of innovative teaching methods for undergraduate education. This will be continued with emphasis on how to increase student engagement, development of on-line resources that are available to multiple universities and instructors, and how to adapt to the changing type of student present in the land-grant universities.
  7. Continuation of the biannual symposia that brings together university educators, extension scientists, reproductive physiologists and swine industry representatives to ensure researchers understand the swine industry, the industry is aware of current developments and technologies and educators can gather the latest information to implement in university and extension programs.
  8. The committee will continue development of an integrated research grant to be submitted to the USDA AFRI program on Climate Change. This will investigate the interaction of summer heat stress on swine reproduction, develop of on-line swine reproduction teaching material and develop internships as part of the educational process to get students into production settings.;

Procedures and Activities

NCERA57 provides a mechanism for a diverse group of researchers, educators and extension specialists, all involved in swine reproductive physiology, to meet on an annual basis and discuss each stations current research and its implications for the industry, teaching, extension and scientific advancement. This helps to advance each individual station's research but also facilitates the establishment of collaborative research projects among the station participants. For example, as a result of the 2002 symposia sponsored by the NCR57 Committee (see below), a significant shift in research of the NCERA57 group has occurred. Scientists at Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, MARC, and BARC have been collaborating on impact of heat stress on female and male swine. Funding has been obtained from USDA for work at Missouri and Iowa using environmental chambers and a National Pork Board grant has been submitted to fund preliminary data acquisition at MARC, Wisconsin, BARC and Kansas related to summer infertility, use of frozen semen to overcome these problems in the industry, and impact on the placenta of fetuses conceived under different environmental conditions. The future goal is to develop a larger grant proposal for submission to a USDA-AFRI program utilizing the preliminary data obtained. Work continues from collaboration between Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, USDA-MARC, USDA-BARC and North Carolina on novel methods for semen evaluation to predict male fertility investigating sperm zona binding, sperm microRNAs, nuclear condensation during spermatogenesis, role of the Sertoli cell in sperm fertility, sperm head, tail and nuclear morphology, role of reactive oxygen species on sperm function, and numbers of sperm required for fixed time inseminations. Molecular approaches are being used in a collaboration between Missouri, MARC, BARC and Iowa on how environment factors and estrogens interact to impact gene expression and physiology of the uterine endometrium, placenta and fetus during early phases of pregnancy in swine. See attachments for specific collaborative projects and publications.

A major contribution of this project has been the biennial symposia that have involved station and industry representatives. The symposia topics have been: 2002 Seasonal Infertility (Nebraska), 2004 Boar Stud Management and A.I. (Iowa), 2006 Reproductive Inefficiency of Small Litter Sizes (North Carolina), 2008 Sow Longevity (Indiana), 2010 Gilt Development (Illinois) and 2012 AI Technology (Iowa). The symposia will continue in the new project period with topics decided on at the preceding year's meeting. As such, the topic for 2014 is Improved Litter Size and Environmental Effects on Pig Quality (Nebraska).

The committee has been unique in that teaching approaches and assessment are discussed at annual meetings with the same rigor as scientific research. This has led to collaborations of Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas in the development of on-line teaching materials that focus on how to achieve learning outcomes utilizing modern digital and on-line approaches to education. See attachments for specific projects and publications related to collaborative work on teaching.

In the next 5 years, the plan of the committee is to implement the objectives described above by fostering the collaborative nature of the annual meetings and discussing of both research and teaching. The biennial symposia will continue as this has proven to be an effective means to communicate research results to the industry but also a way for the scientists of NCERA57 to understand concerns of the industry and plan future research to address current issues as was done with seasonal infertility.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Exchange of research information, approaches, critiques of the research, and introduction of novel approaches.
  • The establishment of collaborations in areas of boar or sow/gilt reproductive performance.
  • Development of teaching materials for 1) general reproductive physiology courses utilizing the pig as a model, 2) swine production courses, and 3) industry short course/modules related to topics in swine reproduction.
  • Submission of a joint grant on seasonal infertility to the integrated USDA program on climate change (should an RFA be reissued) based on the preliminary data obtained from the National Pork Board proposal.
  • Continuation of the biennial symposia integrating industry, extension and researchers to understand and solve industry problems.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

We continue to invite stakeholders, such as swine industry leaders, to attend the annual meeting as well as suggest topics and participate in the biennial conferences. The topics of the biennial symposium are chosen the year in advance to reflect the current interest of the industry in areas for which the committee has expertise to contribute. In 2014 the symposium will be on Improved Litter Size and Environmental Effects on Pig Quality.

The development of educational material and approaches for undergraduate education is an important aspect of this committees annual meetings. As material is developed it will be shared among the associated institutions for inclusion in undergraduate and extension teaching activities.


The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for a three-year term of service. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a CSREES Representative.

Literature Cited

All literature referred to in the document appears in the attachments as the collaborative references.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Beltsville Area, Kansas State University, USDA-ARS Roman L. Hruska US Meat Animal Research Center, USDA/ARS/U.S. Meat Animal Research Center
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