USDA announces $20 million feral swine control program

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Feral swine often forage alongside livestock and eat grains, mineral blocks, and other items intended for cattle. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services animal health experts are concerned such close contact can result in the transmission of disease from feral swine to livestock and people. USDA APHIS photo by Justin Stevenson. Destructive, disease ridden, razorback – all words used to describe feral swine that are rapidly becoming a growing nuisance to farmers and ranchers.

“Feral swine are one of the most destructive invaders a state can have,” says Undersecretary for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos in a USDA release.  “They have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years and cause damage to crops, kill young livestock, destroy property, harm natural resources, and carry diseases that threaten other animals as well as people and water supplies. It’s critical that we act now to begin appropriate management of this costly problem.”

On April 2, USDA announced a $20 million program led by the Wildlife Service of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) designed to help states control the expanding population of feral swine.

According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Specialist Billy Higginbotham, feral hogs are the most prolific large mammals on earth.

“The average is between 5 and 6 pigs per litter. Sows have approximately 1.5 litters per year,” says Higginbotham. “Young females do not typically have their first litter until they are 13+ months of age, even though they can be sexually mature at 6 to 8 months of age or even earlier in some cases.”

USDA APHIS photo Tyler Campbell. Their booming population across 78 percent of the states in the country have caused approximately $1.5 billion in damages and control across the U.S. While holding fame for rooting and wallowing high-value crops and destroying natural resources, diseases that can be transferred to people, wildlife, water supplies and domestic animals, including domestic swine, are most worrisome.

“In addition to the costly damage to agricultural and natural resources, the diseases these animals carry present a real threat to our swine populations,” says Avalos.  “Feral swine are able to carry and transmit up to 30 diseases and 37 different parasites to livestock, people, pets and wildlife, so surveillance and disease monitoring is another keystone to this program.” 

Feral swine wallowing activities cause property damage, soil compaction and erosion. USDA APHIS photo Tyler Campbell. APHIS plans to have the program operating within the next six months, focusing on testing for feral swine diseases most concerning for U.S. pork produces including, swine brucellosis, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, swine influenza, pseudorabies and classical swine fever.

Coordinating projects with Canada and Mexico will also take place.

“We’ve already begun this type of work through a pilot program in New Mexico,” concludes Avalos.  “Through this pilot program, we have successfully removed feral swine from 5.3 million acres of land.  By applying the techniques such as trap monitors and surveillance cameras we have developed through this pilot project, we aim to eliminate feral swine from two States every three to five years and stabilize feral swine damage within 10 years.”

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Phil Moshell    
Randolph county, Georgia  |  April, 04, 2014 at 07:39 PM

Despite active hunting and aggressive trapping, feral hog numbers have absolutely exploded here in the past three years. They will ruin a Bermudgrass hayfield overnight, and forget about growing corn or peanuts. We have shot and trapped hundreds, but as long as there are creek and riverbottoms, they will keep multiplying.We get all types of "sure fire" solutions, but they are not worth a bucket of spit. It is looking like our only long term solution is going to be putting up hogwire fences everywhere.

Texas  |  April, 07, 2014 at 09:44 AM

Yes, Phil, and the $30 million is like a bucket of spit on an out if control fire that has been raging and multiplying for years. I guess when the USDA doesn't see wild hogs roaming and destroying the precious halls in Washjngton, you wait until one bites the interest of a huge contributor, then "take action".

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  April, 07, 2014 at 12:22 PM

I think what the government should do is take some of the grey wolves out of the Yellowstone area and plant them in the states that are having hog problems. That way it would be self sustaining like the government wants everything on the farm and ranch. And it doesn't matter if you want them or not, majority in Montana and Wyoming didn't want them back either but here they are.

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