Author: Raney Rapp
Published: September 5, 2018
Over six years, Ryan Hubert, one of four U.S. Department of Agriculture feral swine biologists for Kansas, has removed over 1,000 wild hogs from his area stretching from Coffeyville to Elk City along the Oklahoma state line.
During the Kansas State University Extension Women in Agriculture meeting in Independence, Hubert spoke to female farm operators about the techniques and patience feral hog feral hog management requires.
“Here in Kansas, they estimate the annual damage around a quarter of a million dollars to agriculture in the state,” Hubert said. “The damage is not just restricted to crops, it can also be vegetable crops or even nut trees and farms.”
With a feral hog population reportedly hovering around 1,000 hogs in 2017, the dollar value of damage per hog in the state would be exceedingly high. Thanks to a rapid rate of hybridization and their capability for explosive reproduction, without management the state’s feral hog population could careen out of control.
“Their high reproductivity and sexual maturity at a young age can result in quite an exponential population increase in a short amount of time,” Hubert said. “Their gestation allows for about two times of producing three to eight piglets per year in a litter but as high as 10 to 12 depending on conditions.”
Feral hogs travel in sounders — groups typically comprised of two or three sows and several of their growing litters of piglets. Boars join the sounder when the sows are in heat, but with piglets reaching sexual maturity as early as 6 months of age, feral hog populations can expand rapidly even without mature boars present.
Feral hogs can eat 3 to 5 percent of their body weight daily in tubers, roots and invertebrates they dig up using their snouts as a trowel.
“It’s amazing how little the amount of soil they actually remove is when they’re feeding like this,” Hubert said, “but they create some pretty big divots you’ll see at times, almost like grenades went off or something.”
Most of the damage done by feral swine each year is due to their rooting process, where the hogs tear up cropland or pasture in pursuit of a meal. However, feral hogs have a significant impact on other wild game populations in the state as they compete for food without the threat of any major predators.
“They’re directly competing for the mass crop of the oak trees in the fall against our native turkeys and deer and animals that are caching them for a food supply and for fat for the winter,” Hubert said. “But also, there is consumption of ground nesting bird eggs for quail and prairie chicken and other native birds.”
Hubert encouraged producers to keep an eye out for feral swine in their fields, as the hogs often camp out in the interior of a crop field for several days before anyone noticed signs of their presence.
Feral hogs will pull vegetation up into a large bird-like nest, root in soft bottom ground and rub themselves on poles and trees. Tracks left by feral hogs will look similar to deer tracks but will be squarer in shape and have rounder toes.
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