Recently, AgriLife Extension has offered a series of workshops across the state called Generation Next: Our Time to Ranch. The goal of the program was to help provide guidance to the next generation of landowners on ways to utilize their new land resources. The program covered the basics of how to start an agricultural business, add to an existing ranch operation, market your product, select the right operation for your situation, and tips for how to best manage land with the technologies we have available today, as well as, dealing with several other land management issues one of which was feral hogs.
The feral hog has become a significant pest in much of Texas. After all, 79% of the state is considered suitable habitat for feral hogs. Dr. Billy Higginbothem, Wildlife Specialist with AgriLife Extension, is credited with saying feral hogs, “Will eat anything that contains a calorie”. This may be one of the bigger reason we have such a problem with them. Not only are they very good at finding food to meet their nutritional need as omnivorous, but they also benefit from the estimated 300 million pounds of corn that is feed to wildlife in Texas annually.
When feral hogs are able to supplement their diet with this type of abundant food source, it cannot help but improve their already impressive population dynamics. It is currently estimated that 2.6 million feral hogs are in Texas and they have a life span of 4 to 8 years on average. During that time a sow will have her first litter at around 13 months and average 1.5 litters per year. The average litter size is 5.6 piglets per litter. This allows for an 18 – 20% increase in population annually. Therefore, just to keep the population in check an annual harvest of 60 to 70% is required. Unfortunately, recreational hunting fall far short of this averaging (around 24%) so other means of control are required.
Currently, the best management practice to managing this pest is to use a corral trap with an 8ft guillotine gate and a discriminating trigger that reduces the chance of premature triggering by smaller pigs or non-target animals. The trap should be pre-baited and monitored with a game camera until you are confident that the entire sounder is entering the corral trap. Once it is being fully utilized by the group the trap may be set. Once, trapped all hogs caught should be humanly euthanized or transported to a harvest facility.
Of all the feral hog statistic, I find the harvest demand for feral hogs the most interesting. Between 2004 and 2009, 461 thousand hogs were inspected for federal slaughter. With average weights of 200 and 175 pounds for adult males and females, respectively, they are worth around $90 to 100 per head. More shocking, feral hogs are worth more than a 270 pound top butcher hog at current market prices. However, prospective trappers should note that smaller hogs trade at a considerable discount with an 80 pound hog only worth around $30. The Texas Animal Health Commission maintains a list of approved Feral Swine Holding Facilities, which will all generally accept feral hogs that landowners are hoping to market.
Trapping can not only eliminate a pest that is estimated to cause around $200 per head worth of damage each year from your ranch, but also generate some decent revenue. For additional information on feral hogs visit http://plumcreek.tamu.edu/feralhogs.