Date of this Version
The Author(s) 2020
Semen quality has a dramatic impact on reproductive efficiency in the swine industry, influencing both conception rate and litter size. The objective of this study was to assess whether the presence of varicocele hinders semen quality in both thermoneutral and heat stress (HS) conditions. At approximately 6 mo of age, ultrasonography was used to measure left and right pampiniform plexus area in order to detect varicocele in maternal line boars at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Between 10 and 12 mo of age, semen was collected from each boar (n = 28) twice weekly. Boars were collected under thermoneutral conditions, were then heat stressed for 7 d to exacerbate any semen quality issues, and semen was collected post-HS for 6 wk. Sperm characteristics were determined by computer-assisted semen analysis. The presence of varicocele had a significant effect on sperm concentration (P = 0.04) and trended toward significance for mean sperm head area (P = 0.06) throughout the duration of the study. An interaction existed between varicocele and collection time point at weeks 2–5 post-HS for distal droplet percentage, suggesting that boars with varicocele were possibly more susceptible to heat-stress-induced semen quality issues than boars without varicocele. Moreover, semen quality was reduced in boars with versus without varicocele under both thermoneutral and HS conditions. Therefore, detection of varicocele by ultrasound could represent a potential marker of fertility in young boars or as a component trait in selection indices for fertility.