Free-roaming horse (Equus caballus) management is a complex issue incorporating social, economic, emotional, political, and environmental factors. Currently, few proven field techniques exist for managing free-roaming horse population growth, which can reach 20–25% annually. Although there are several strategies available for sterilizing mares when managing free-roaming horse populations, surgical vasectomy is the only method used in the field for stallions. Some managers believe that surgically vasectomizing dominant stallions would have significant effects on reducing horse populations. However, sterilizing only dominant harem stallions results in a relatively modest reduction in population growth as substantial reproduction may occur even when 100% of the dominant harem stallions are sterilized if other males perform as little as 10% of the breeding. The overall goal of the current project was to evaluate the efficacy of a novel nonsurgical method for sterilizing free-roaming horses (chemical vasectomy). In September of 2013, stallions that had been previously surgically vasectomized (SURG, n = 25), previously chemically vasectomized (CHEM, n = 16), or untreated (CONT, n = 32) were captured and surgically castrated in preparation for adoption. When comparing both sterilization methods to CONT, serum testosterone and estrone sulfate concentrations did not differ (P > 0.05), suggesting that these methods for sterilizing free-roaming stallions would not disrupt herd social hierarchy. However, similar to the CONT, all CHEM stallions had sperm present within the vas deferens seminal fluid samples. CHEM stallions had more morphologically abnormal sperm than did CONT stallions but it is not known if this affected the actual fertility. Additional research is needed using alternative sclerosing agents for chemical vasectomy in free-roaming horse populations.
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