Mo. Cattlemen's Association endorses eradication of feral hogs

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Missouri Cattlemen's Association has endorsed the Missouri Department of Conservation's efforts to eradicate feral hogs, a species the organization of 5,000 members says could pose a threat to its industry.

Found mostly in the southern part of the state, including Wayne and Bollinger counties, these domestic hogs turned wild compete with native species for food and are known to kill fawns and eat eggs of ground-nesting birds. This can result in feral hogs uprooting pastureland, which may contribute to soil erosion.

Jeff Windett, executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, said between 200 and 300 members of the organization recently passed the endorsement during its annual meeting.

"The feral hogs do a lot of damage to pastureland and they can cause a lot of damage to private property as well," Windett said. "Even a small [number of hogs] can cause a lot of headaches for farmers."

Rex Martensen, field program supervisor and feral hog expert with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said that four to five pigs can uproot 10 to 20 acres of pastureland overnight.

He said they also may carry such diseases as swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis and leptospirosis. Martensen said that if the diseases were transferred from feral hogs to domestic swine, it could force the owner to quarantine his whole herd or, if an infected domestic hog was sold before the problem was discovered, may even shut down the import and export of pork in the state of Missouri. That could result in millions of dollars lost for the industry, Martensen said.

To curtail the problem, the department of conservation has suggested trapping or shooting the feral hogs on sight. However, the department said intentionally setting the wild hogs free and then hunting them is illegal.

The conservation department warns the public to use caution when encountering the hogs.

"They're not like these cute little pigs you may commonly associate with swine," said A.J. Hendershott, regional supervisor for outreach and education with the department of conservation office in Cape Girardeau. "They're very dangerous to humans and tend to have very bad attitudes."

Martensen said that although no one has been injured, the feral hogs have chased some individuals.

"It's a matter of time when someone gets hurt," he said.

In addition to the eradication of feral hogs, the Cattlemen's Association passed other policies endorsing the Missouri Department of Agriculture's efforts to both control bovine viral diarrhea-persistent infection and increase funding in its Animal Health Division.

The association wants breeders to voluntarily test herds each year to certify they have a clean heard in efforts to control bovine viral diarrhea-persistent infection. Windett also hopes the Missouri Department of Agriculture can receive full funding for its Animal Health Division, which has seen its county veterinarian staff dwindle from 45 in the 1990s to nine today, according to Dr. Taylor Woods with the department.

"Funding has dwindled in the past decade," Windett said. "If we're going to protect the state's livestock industry, we need a very viable department of agriculture."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

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