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Pig birth control research

An Auburn University wildlife sciences researcher says developing an oral contraceptive for wild hogs, though difficult, may be one way of controlling the devastating damage the animals inflict on U.S. cropland each year.

Steve Ditchkoff, associate professor in the Forestry and Wildlife Department at Auburn, told farmers at the annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference recently that research efforts “show promise.”

The process of using contraceptives to control wild animal populations has been used successfully before, Ditchkoff said. “The history goes back to 1971, when contraceptives were used to control wild horses.”

He said products and procedures used for horses were “effective and viable.” That has not been the case for wild pigs, deer and other nuisance wild animals.

“It’s too difficult to administer in the field,” Ditchkoff said. “If we shoot pigs with a dart we may as well shoot them with a bullet. It requires manpower.”

He said an ideal contraceptive for wild pigs should be orally administered and species specific. Species specific is a tricky area, he said. “We need something that will work on pigs but not on deer. No species specific oral contraceptive has been developed,” Ditchkoff said.” But we’re working on it.”

He said genetically engineered proteins may be the answer. “We need to find proteins that mimic sperm. This is a different approach from any other immuno-contraception for pigs.”

He said two peptides (protein) “show promise. Our goal is to incorporate those into an oral vaccine.”

He said he’s not certain if a single dose will be adequate or if subsequent treatments will be necessary. “We’re hoping for a six-month (duration).”

The Alabama Farmers Federation is sponsoring the research.

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