Growing feral hog population threatens East Texas hay supplies

Growing feral hog population threatens East Texas hay supplies

GREGG COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - First it was drought, then army worms, then too much rain. Now, hay producers and users are dealing with another threat to hay supplies across East Texas: feral hogs.

Gregg County Ag Extension Agent Randy Reeves said Tuesday feral hogs can devastate a pasture.

“They can cause all kinds of problems with pastures. Their rooting action, you know, digging up, they’re looking for worms and things like that, so they can tear a pasture up,” Reeves said.

Hay supplies were already down because of last summer’s invasion of army worms, which Reeves said was the worst outbreak in at least nine years.

Feral hogs are threatening hay supplies across East Texas. Eddy Holley, owner of Kilgore Feed, talks about the damage feral hogs have done to his property off Highway 31. (Arthur Clayborn/KLTV Photojournalist)
Feral hogs are threatening hay supplies across East Texas. Eddy Holley, owner of Kilgore Feed, talks about the damage feral hogs have done to his property off Highway 31. (Arthur Clayborn/KLTV Photojournalist)

Eddy Holley owns Kilgore Feed and said he dealt with the army worms last year and has been dealing with feral hogs for about five years. He showed us damage on his property off Highway 31 in Gregg County.

“I’ve got to get in here now, as soon as the rain lets up, and smooth all this down. Well, that’s just another job,” Holley said.

Holley said he’s had to ship hay from Mississippi; and while the hay is one price, he said it’s the trucking it to East Texas that drives up the price.

Despite the army worms, extra rain and destructive feral hogs, Holley is optimistic about the months ahead.

“I think we’re going to be okay. You know, last year what started this is we had a slow, cool spring, and it just didn’t warm up fast enough to make the Bermuda grass grow." he says. “Nighttime temperatures, they have to maintain about 60 degrees for Bermuda grass to grow. That’s what we look for, and we’re not there yet. You know this thing could turn around on a dime any day.”

The hogs are not just a problem for large-scale hay producers and ranchers.

“Even your vegetable farmers. They (the hogs) go into town, they get on the golf courses, people’s yards that they can get to. It’s not a matter of who’s got feral hogs. It’s a matter of who’s going to get feral hogs," Holley said. “The feral hogs are very smart. If they’ve ever been trapped or even close to a trap, they know not to go in there. So unless you’re willing to spend that $5,000 to $7,000 on that automated trap, then you pretty much just deal with it.”

But Reeves said one way to help is to invest in game cameras and corral-type traps with panels, T-posts and bait.

"Old-timers say when that hog will lay down in that trap he’s comfortable with it, and that’s when you set it. And instead of catching one or two here and there, you’ll catch anywhere from 10 to 15,” Reeves said. "They’re working on this on the federal level. The bait toxicant, whatever you want to call it, I think it’ll eventually be here at some point. It could be two or three years, four years from now, but until we get something like that it’s just going to be something we’re going to have to manage and work with.”

There are more than 1.5 million feral hogs in Texas, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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