Invasive animals are a key threat to Australia’s food and wool security, costing Australia at least $1 billion per year in lost agricultural productivity and control costs. Rabbits, foxes, feral cats and dogs all pose severe risks towards Australian agriculture, and feral horses are a leading cause of industry losses due to grazing competition. Feed remains the single largest cost in animal production, and therefore it is essential that feed conversion rates are maximised and pasture loss due to feral animal grazing is minimised. There is an urgent need for effective invasive animal population control and improvement of meat, wool and milk yields within animal production systems in Australia. Thus, a non-surgical method of sterilisation to reduce the impacts of invasive animals, and improve feed conversion efficiency of livestock, is currently in development.
Primordial follicles, which are the finite population of germs cells in the mammalian ovary, are highly susceptible to oxidative stress. Oxidative stresses such as xenobiotics and x-irradiation can cause premature ovarian failure (POF) through over-activation of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, which is responsible for folliculogenesis. The manipulation of this pathway can be used for contraceptive purposes with the application of cell-specific phage peptides. Using these peptides, we can target primordial follicles and expose them to oxidative stress either by treating with xenobiotics, or by triggering the immune system to induce an immune attack against the cells. This exposure leads to premature activation of folliculogenesis to a point where ovarian failure is induced, and the animal is unable to produce offspring. This technology will drastically reduce invasive animal burden on agriculture systems due to population decline, and allow for improved feed conversion efficiencies in livestock, as females would no longer expend energy during pregnancy, parturition and lactation.