Feral hog damage to Louisiana farms now estimated at $74 million

Feral hogs cost Louisiana farmers more than $74 million in crop losses and other damage in 2013, according to an LSU AgCenter study. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

BATON ROUGE, La. – Feral hogs cost Louisiana farmers more than $74 million in crop losses and other damage in 2013, according to an LSU AgCenter study.
The hogs caused about $53 million in damage to Louisiana crops and an additional $21 million in non-production losses, said AgCenter economist Shaun Tanger, who for more than a year has been gathering data from farmers about feral hog activity and damage.
Louisiana’s feral hog population is estimated at 500,000, with heavier concentrations in the south-central and northeastern regions of the state, Tanger said. They can root up and eat crops, damage farm equipment and spread diseases to livestock and wildlife.
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, it’s worth noting that only about 5 percent of Louisiana soybean acreage saw hog damage in 2013, for example.
“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.
About 31 percent of farmers in the study said they have feral hogs on their land. As hog populations grow, there not only could be more crop losses but also more costs like those involved with replanting or replacing damaged equipment, Tanger said.
Tanger’s study is based on a survey of Louisiana farmers, so it also does not account for damage to state and federal lands or rural and suburban properties such as yards and golf courses.
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.

Written by Olivia McClure, LSU AgCenter

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