Feral hogs cause $30 million damage to La. farms

Olivia McClure, Tanger, Shaun  |  7/13/2015 7:34:05 PM

This map shows the distribution of feral hogs in Louisiana. The dark red parishes have the highest percentages of farmers who responded to an LSU AgCenter survey saying they have hogs on their land. Illustration by Kathy Kramer

This map shows the number of acres damaged by feral hogs that farmers reported in an LSU AgCenter study. The pink and blue parishes have the most damage. Illustration by Kathy Kramer

News Release Distributed 07/13/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Feral hogs caused at least $30 million in damage to crops on Louisiana farms in 2013, according to an LSU AgCenter study.

AgCenter economist Shaun Tanger has been gathering data for more than a year from Louisiana farmers about hog activity and damage, which ranges from rooting up and eating crops to damaging farm equipment. The hogs can also spread fatal diseases to wildlife and livestock.

“Up to this point, we’ve only had anecdotes, so we wanted to quantify how much cost is associated with feral hog activity,” said Tanger, who worked on the survey project with AgCenter forest products specialist Rich Vlosky and wildlife and fisheries specialist Michael Kaller.

Hog-damaged crops often sell at a reduced price, and sometimes farmers cannot sell them at all.

The 2013 Louisiana soybean crop suffered more than $9 million worth of hog damage. Hay producers lost about $7 million, while the rice and corn industries both saw about $5 million in damage.

Farmers also reported hogs interfering with livestock operations and damaging equipment and levees.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are about 6 million feral hogs living in at least 41 states. California, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas have some of the largest populations.

Louisiana’s feral hog population has been estimated at 500,000, with hotspots in the south-central and northeastern parts of the state. About 31 percent of farmers in the AgCenter study said they have hogs on their land.

Up to 75 percent of feral hogs would have to be eliminated just to maintain the current population, Tanger said. They are an extremely prolific breed, with some sows able to have two litters of six piglets every year.

If feral hog populations continue to grow so rapidly, they are likely to move into suburban areas. That could lead to dangerous human-hog encounters.

“Once this becomes a nonfarm problem, it will become a much more urgent policy problem,” Tanger said.

The most effective way to control feral hogs is trapping and killing them. AgCenter scientists have been studying alternatives, including sodium nitrite-based bait.

Olivia McClure

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