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.”