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Challenges/Opportunities in Feral Horses

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Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 7:00am

Guests: Erdogan Memili, Molly Nicodemus, Lori Ward


Transcription:

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about challenges and opportunities in feral horses. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Erdogan Memili, Associate Professor at MSU Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, also with Dr. Molly Nicodemus, Associate Professor at MSU Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, and Lori Ward, Third Year Student at MSU College of Veterinary Medicine.
 
Dr. Nicodemus, tell me about your research philosophy and educational programs here at Mississippi State.
 
Dr. Nicodemus: Yes, the focus of my research is the study of equine gait mechanics with an emphasis of really defining the normal locomotion of some of those more exotic or rare horse breeds. I'm currently working right now with a livestock conservancy on analyzing gait mechanics of those horse breeds listed on their endangered or critical breed list. We've actually researched nine different horse breeds, and these also include some of those in the feral horse breeds, and from that we've identified some unique gaits for these particular breeds.
 
Our goal really is to educate horse breeders to select their breeding stock based on preservation of some of these unique gait mechanics. We've also worked with educating veterinarians and future veterinarians, and in case of my students, since I am 100% teaching, we really want to make sure that we're educating and taking this research and educating them on what specifically to look for, not only in normal gait mechanics but also in abnormal, so identifying lameness early in these particular horse breeds.
 
Amy Myers: Okay, and how about you, Dr. Memili?
 
Dr. Memili: Yes, we study fundamental science and biotechnology of animal physiology, and our goal is to improve reproduction and production of livestock with desired characteristics, and those are the economically important traits using functional genomics approaches. The other research is aimed at developing regenerative medicine for both human and veterinary medicine, and for that we use adult stem cells and systems biology approaches. Most of our research programs are collaborated with prominent scientists in diverse disciplines of cutting edge science. Our programs provide both empowerment and inspiration for students in the pursuit of careers in science.
 
Amy Myers: So, Lori, tell me the reasons that you selected to research the feral horse.
 
Lori Ward: I chose to research the feral horse population because I show horses, and horses are something I really enjoy. At the time, the feral horse population was popular in the news, and I realized there is not much research out there concerning feral horse population. So after talking with my professors, we thought this would be the way to go. 
 
Amy Myers: What interesting facts did you find out when researching the feral horse?
 
Lori Ward: Feral horses, also known as Mustangs, refer to horses whose ancestors were at one time domesticated, but now free-ranging without the care of humans, whereas wild animals are those with ancestors that were never domesticated. Currently, there's about 3,700 in the United States, and their population is growing at a rate of 20% each year. They're dispersed throughout the United States in Florida, Sable Isle, and many other places. Feral horses in North America range over more than 45 million acres in 10 American states and two Canadian provinces along with locations within the Eastern North American islands such as Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nova Scotia. 
 
While some members of the public consider the feral horses as an icon and important natural resources, some consider them as threats to our ecosystems and competitors for feed for livestock. So efforts to reduce the feral horse populations have not been feasible or acceptable by the public. For example, roundups are estimated to cost $1 billion by year 2030. 
 
Amy Myers: And how do you think the new knowledge you have produced will impact your practice in the future as a veterinarian? 
 
Lori Ward: Well, there's a need for science-based solutions for control and welfare of the feral horses. Because of their rising population, that creates contentions between some members of the public and the agriculturist. There is a need to develop non-invasive proper sterilization methods. Such approaches will prevent the roundups, reduce vegetation destruction, and resolve the overpopulation issue. For further information, I refer interested audience to our Review article recently published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Professional Animal Scientist. 
 
Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Erdogan Memili, Associate Professor, Animal and Dairy Sciences, also with Dr. Molly Nicodemus, Associate Professor, and Lori Ward, Third Year Student at MSU College of Veterinary Medicine.
 
I'm Amy Taylor Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day. 
 
Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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