SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - 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 crops and an additional $21 million in non-production losses, said AgCenter economist Shaun Tanger,
Tanger's been gathering data from farmers about feral hog activity and damage for about a year.
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 the costs of tilling and replanting.
The 2013 crop losses include $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.
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 quickly. They can an have two litters of six piglets every year. They're 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.