Effects of Brucella ovis infection on semen characteristics of 16-month-old red deer stags

Effects of Brucella ovis infection on semen characteristics of 16-month-old red deer stags
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIM: To determine the effects of Brucella ovis infection on semen characteristics of 16-month-old red deer stags (Cervus elaphus).
METHODS: At monthly intervals during March, April and May, semen was collected using electro-ejaculation from 9 yearling red deer stags that had been artificially infected with B. ovis 3 months previously. In March, semen was also collected from 6 non-infected stags from the same peer group for comparison. Semen was evaluated for gross appearance, percentage of sperm showing forward motility, sperm morphology and sperm density/ml of semen, and the presence of white blood cells was determined. In addition, at the time of semen collection, the epididymes of each stag were palpated and lesions recorded.
RESULTS: Grossly visible purulent material was present in semen from 6/9 infected stags and the percentage of sperm showing forward motility did not exceed 20% in any of these samples. Increased numbers of white blood cells and cellular debris were evident in semen from 8/9 infected stags. Compared with non-infected stags, sperm motility in semen from infected stags was significantly reduced (p<0.05). There were no differences in percentage of morphologically normal sperm between groups, but infected stags had more detached sperm heads present in semen than non-infected stags (p<0.05). Only 2 of the infected stags had lesions of epididymitis evident on scrotal palpation.
CONCLUSIONS: B. ovis infection is likely to have a detrimental effect on stag semen quality. While there was variation between individual animals, overall sperm motility was decreased and semen from infected stags had increased numbers of white blood cells and detached sperm heads.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The fertility of breeding stags may be reduced if they are infected with B. ovis and this possibility should be considered when investigating reproductive problems of deer.
KEY WORDS: Brucella ovis, deer, stags, semen, sperm, reproduction.

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