BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Feral hogs cost Louisiana farmers more than $74 million in crop losses and other damage in 2013, according to a new study by the LSU AgCenter.
AgCenter economist Shaun Tanger, who’s been gathering data from farmers about feral hog activity for more than a year, said in a news release Friday that the animals caused about $53 million in damage to crops and an additional $21 million in non-production losses.
In July, Tanger estimated hog damage to Louisiana farms at $30 million, but that figure did not include damage to timber, pastures, farm infrastructure and equipment. It also did not include costs associated with tilling and replanting cropland.
The 2013 crop losses included $14.6 million in damage to soybeans. Hay producers lost $9.9 million, and other crop losses included corn at $8.5 million and rice at $6.8 million.
Tanger estimates non-production losses at more than $21 million, including about $6.3 million farmers spent replanting and more than $2 million in damage to both pastures and levees. While those numbers may seem high, the study notes that only about 5 percent of Louisiana soybean acreage saw hog damage in 2013.
“It’s a problem now, but there’s plenty of room for it to get worse” given the small percentages of acres damaged in 2013, Tanger said.
Tanger said Louisiana’s feral hog population is estimated at half a million, with heavy concentrations in the south-central and northeastern regions of the state.
The hogs root up and eat crops, damage farm equipment, and spread diseases to livestock and wildlife.
About 31 percent of farmers in the study said they have feral hogs on their land. Feral hogs reproduce extremely quickly, and some sows can have two litters of six piglets every year. They are a growing nuisance nationwide, with about 6 million hogs living in at least 41 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The most effective way to control feral hogs is trapping and killing them. AgCenter scientists are studying alternatives, such as a sodium nitrite-based bait.