Feral hogs eat­ing away at farm prof­its

The Standard Journal - - Entertainment - Comics -

Feral hogs may be prime prey for hunters, but to Ge­or­gia farm­ers they’re the ul­ti­mate preda­tor. They de­stroy farm­land, eat away at a farmer’s crops and dras­ti­cally re­duce po­ten­tial prof­its.

Jay Porter, the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia Ex­ten­sion agent in Dooly County, says feral hogs cause about $1 mil­lion in agri­cul­tural loss each year. A 2011 sur­vey con­ducted by UGA wildlife specialist Mike Men­gak, re­vealed that more than $84 mil­lion was lost in the 41 coun­ties that com­prise the 41 coun­ties in south­west Ge­or­gia.

Along with the ma­jor yield losses, feral hogs also leave ag­gra­vat­ing messes for farm­ers to clean up. Porter said hogs de­stroy fields to the point where two or three passes are re­quired with a trac­tor just to smooth the field so re­plant­ing can oc­cur.

“You’re look­ing at equip­ment costs, fuel costs and la­bor costs on top of your crop losses,” Porter said.

Billy San­ders, a long­time Dooly County farmer, be­lieves feral hogs are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly prob­lem­atic be­cause of the ex­cess rain­fall the state has re­ceived over the past year. Feral hogs mi­grate close to wa­ter sources, such as Sandy Mount Creek in Vi­enna, which is just a cou­ple of hun­dred yards from San­ders’ peanut field. Feral hogs de­stroyed 24 straight rows of San­ders’ crop last week.

Four or five years ago, San­ders’ 60-acre peanut field was de­stroyed to the tune of $30,000. The dev­as­ta­tion came af­ter the peanuts sat in the field for three weeks be­cause of ex­ces­sive rain­fall. As San­ders notes, what was ini­tially a har­vest oper­a­tion quickly be­came a sal­vage oper­a­tion. What’s the is­sue? Feral hogs are a ma­jor prob­lem in large part be­cause of their re­pro­duc­tive ca­pac­i­ties. Char­lie Kill­mas­ter, a deer and feral hog bi­ol­o­gist with the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, says un­like deer, which breed in the fall and have their young in the spring, feral hogs breed when they’re ready and don’t stop. The re­sult is a re­pro­duc­tive rate that is “just as­tro­nom­i­cal,” he said.

The high pop­u­la­tions are made worse by the an­i­mal’s un­pre­dictabil­ity. They feed on peanut, cot­ton, wheat and other grain crops.

Feral hogs par­tic­u­larly like nut­grass grow­ing in cot­ton fields. San­ders has seen hogs dig a hole “halfknee deep” to get one small nut off a nut­grass plant. This makes the area un­har­vestable.

San­ders and his fam­ily are in the process of har­vest­ing wheat in spite of the fact that many fields are se­verely hog dam­aged. He won’t plant wheat again un­til the feral hog pop­u­la­tion is re­duced.

Feral hogs can also harm the en­vi­ron­ment. Kill­mas­ter said hogs root up nests of sea tur­tles, an en­dan­gered species. They also con­trib­ute to soil dis­tur­bance and in­ter­fere with tree re­gen­er­a­tion. At times, pine trees have had to be re­planted two or three times be­cause hogs eat pine seedlings, he said.

The peak times for hog dam­age are dur­ing plant­ing and har­vest sea­sons. Dur­ing those times of year, it’s not un­com­mon for Dooly County Ex­ten­sion to re­ceive a cou­ple of calls a week about feral pigs dam­ag­ing fields.

Cracking down on the prob­lem

What can be done about a pest that re­pro­duces rapidly and is dif­fi­cult to tar­get? One way is to crack down on the il­le­gal trans­porta­tion of hogs.

Wild hogs are some­times caught and trans­ported to an­other lo­ca­tion for hunt­ing, which is il­le­gal if done in an un­fenced area. Trans­port­ing hogs can range from a pig in a dog box in the back of a truck to scores of swine in a 35-foot live­stock trailer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.