Feral hogs thrive in wet fall weather

Heavy rain, as much as 10 inches in some areas, raised soil moisture levels and generally improved the agricultural outlook through most of the state, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Though delayed in some areas by the rain, cotton, corn and hay harvests continued. However, the rain was a mixed blessing for those wanting to establish winter pastures.

In all, the extra moisture improved the chances for success but delayed planting, according to AgriLife Extension county agents for agriculture and natural resources. But even silver linings may have a cloud, and the rain was associated with problems in many areas. Where cotton had opened bolls, the wet weather might lower quality, and excessive rain was tied to armyworm outbreaks throughout the state.

"In the last couple of weeks we've had some wet, cool, drizzly weather that kind of hurt the cotton crop," said Ryan Martin, AgriLife Extension agent in Motley County, northeast of Lubbock.

But the real downside to the cool wet weather is that feral hogs seem to "flourish" in it, becoming more active and doing increased damage to crops, he said.

"We looked at one producer’s 200-acre cotton field, and there was anywhere from 150 to 200 hogs on it," Martin said. "And they had just completely wrecked that field. If that farmer has any intention of harvesting the crop, he's going to have to go in there and plow it out to get it somewhat smooth where he won't tear up harvest equipment."

Martin said the hogs root around the cotton plant, sometimes rooting it up.

"I take it they're after the root on the plant, maybe the grubs down there." he said.

Though there is a U.S. Department of Agriculture feral hog abatement program, it isn’t really designed for his area, Martin said.

"But you have to pay per acre to enroll your land in that program," he said. "It doesn't really work around here because if your neighbor is trying to get hogs in to sell for hunts, and here you are, enrolled in the program trying to keep the hogs off. It's just a constant back-and-forth fight."

Also, Martin said, the market for hog meat has fallen off. Fewer people are hunting and trapping, and the hog population continues to grow.

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