NCERA_old57: Swine Reproductive Physiology

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCERA_old57: Swine Reproductive Physiology

Duration: 10/01/2019 to 09/30/2024

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

Improved technology and knowledge of reproductive processes continue to be high priority areas needed to improve swine production and the global competitiveness of US agriculture. The NCERA57 group has identified the following areas that require increased research and implementation in the swine industry that would benefit from multistate coordination.

  1. Improve the technology surrounding artificial insemination with a goal to reduce the number of sperm inseminated from higher fertility boars/ejaculates.

  2. Development, testing and utilization of emerging tools to improve reproductive efficiency in the sow, gilt and boar.

  3. Improve fetal growth and survival at birth to reduce loss of small piglets.

  4. Development of a deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms and alternative mitigation strategies of heat stress in the male and female pig.

  5. Development of frozen semen so that boar studs have a contingency strategy if there is a disease outbreak.

  6. Directly engage pork producers and allied industry partners to facilitate the dissemination of new knowledge and tools to enable continuous improvement in reproductive management of U.S. swine herd.

  7. Continued development and implementation of teaching strategies to prepare college graduates with swine knowledge and critical thinking skills to be the next leaders of the swine industry.

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 the needs identified above by having a diverse group of research/teaching and extension faculty from the major land grant Universities in swine producing states and ARS researchers who focus on swine. Individuals focus on improving reproduction in the male, female and during gestation and early post-natal growth and development.  We specifically address stakeholders by hosting a biennial industry symposium focused on topics relevant to the swine industry to which industry leaders are invited.


  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 biennial 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. Collaborative USDA research grants between groups of researchers will be pursued to fund research on the objectives.

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 station’s current research and its implications for the industry, teaching, extension and scientific advancement. The NCERA57 works to advance research at each station and facilitates the establishment of collaborative research projects among the station participants. 

Specific examples of collaborative efforts from 2014-2018 NCERA57 meetings follow: Collaborations on boar performance are occurring at IA, Il, IN, NE, MS, MO, NC, USDA-MARC, and WI. With specific research including work on improving AI technologies, cryopreservation of sperm, sperm selection with nanoparticles, impact of heat stress on spermatogenesis and how to evaluate in the boar, epigenetic impact on offspring, new methods for semen quality evaluation including nuclear shape, sperm microRNAs, nuclear condensation during spermatogenesis, sperm receptors for oviduct cells, sperm survival in the oviduct, role of reactive oxygen species on sperm function, numbers of sperm required for fixed time inseminations and role of testosterone in spermatogenesis and its control by GnRH-II expression in the testis. Collaborations and research are also being undertaken on improving sow and gilt performance at IA, IL, IN, KS, MO, NC, NE, USDA-MARC, and SD.  Specific research has investigated modification to piglet weaning procedures, impact of heat stress on the sow and gilt, and role of melatonin on gilt and sow fertility.  Collaborative work on use of basic science and technology to improve reproductive efficiency are occurring at IA, IL, IN, KS, MS, MO, NE, NC, SD, UDSDA-BARC, USDA-MARC). These include CRISPR technologies to enhance embryo development, development of invitro embryo elongation systems along with metabolomics and RNA-seq from these embryos, and genomics and metabolomics advances to evaluate weaning to estrus interval. These and other ongoing collaborations are referenced in the specific collaborative projects and publications.  It is clear that the NCERA57 meetings have generated a tremendous amount of research that might not have been undertaken without these meetings.  Projects have been funded by USDA, HATCH and National Pork Board grants.

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), 2012 AI Technology (Iowa), 2014 Improved Litter Size and Environmental Effects on Pig Quality (Nebraska), 2016 Interactions of Health and Reproduction in Swine (Missouri) and 2018 Reproduction and Disease in the Sow (South Dakota).  The symposia will continue in the new project period with topics decided on at the preceding year's meeting. The 2020 symposium has been selected to be at Purdue University, Indiana.  There have been between 60 and 80 industry attendees each year.

The committee has been unique in that teaching approaches and assessment are discussed at annual meetings with the same rigor as scientific research.  Some of this teaching fits within the area of extension approaches to impact swine producers. This has led to collaborations of IA, IL, IN, KS, MO, MS, NC, NE, WV and WI in the development of on-line teaching materials and cases that focus on how to achieve learning outcomes utilizing modern digital and on-line approaches to education in the undergraduate and extension spheres. See attachments for collaborative projects and publications that include the effort on teaching and extension.

As retirements have occurred at some stations we have reached out to PSU and WVU to add new members and they have accepted the offer with completion of Appendix E soon.


Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Collaborative research Comments: Exchange of research information, approaches, critiques of the research, and introduction of novel approaches.
  • Collaborations on new areas of swine reproductive performance Comments: These will include the boar, sow/gilt, embryo, fetus, neonate, or weaned piglet.
  • Development of teaching/extension materials Comments: These will relate to: 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.
  • Research grants Comments: Where stations have joint interest in a funding area, such as within USDA-NRI, multi-PI/institution grants will be pursued.
  • Biennial symposia Comments: Continuation of the biennial symposia integrating industry, extension and researchers to understand and solve industry problems.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The committee continues to conduct a biennial symposium which has been featured since 2002. We strive to invite stakeholders, such as swine industry leaders, to attend the annual meeting as well as suggest topics and participate in the biennial symposium. 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.  The location of the specific meeting with the symposium are choosen with attention to potential industry and producer representatives that could benifit from the topic.  Outside attendance at the symposium averages 60 - 70 individuals.

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


A Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for a two-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

USDA-ARS, USDA-ARS Roman L. Hruska US Meat Animal Research Center, USDA/ARS/U.S. Meat Animal Research Center
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