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Feral hogs, mesquite trees discussed at USDA meeting

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

HOBART, OK (KSWO) - Experts with the United States Department of Agriculture stopped in Hobart Tuesday to speak with local farmers about some of the things negatively impacting their property.

Tuesday was just one of several meetings the USDA has had with farmers all across the state. Besides telling them about several different programs available to assist them, they also informed them of the best ways to handle two huge problems in their industry: Feral Hogs and the overgrowth of Mesquite trees.

David Hungerford with the Natural Resource Conservation Service said the events they put on across Oklahoma are all about education.

"Among our common people there's not a big percentage that farm anymore but everything we have comes from the soil,” Hungerford said. “So, it's important that everyone understands that but it's also important that we give all the information and all the help we can to local ag producers so they can protect what they have and grow crops so we have everything we have."

Part of that information included the population of feral pigs in Oklahoma, which has skyrocketed in recent years. Scott Alls with the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services said they are now a problem nearly every Oklahoma farmer has to deal with.

"The population 10 years ago was estimated to be at one million plus and that number is probably close to 1.5 or two million pigs in the state of Oklahoma,” Alls said. “The damage they do affects wheat farmers, dairy farmers, corn, all types of agriculture. In pastures and hay fields, a lot of damage to those."

Alls spoke on the best ways to catch them and said the best way to solve the problem is to keep it simple.

"We've all heard pigs are smart, they aren't that smart but they're highly trainable,” Alls said. “You can train them to be scared to death of you. What we try to emphasize is when you implement a trapping program is to take all the negative pressure off them. Where all you are doing is feeding them, the pigs depend on you and then you shut the door on them."

Hogs weren't the only item on the agenda as there was also a presentation on killing mesquite, a species of tree that Range and Pasture Consultant Rob Cook said takes over the grasslands that livestock feed on. Cook offered several chemical and mechanical ways to kill mesquite but said they aren't foolproof and it's a very hard tree to get completely rid of.

"It's a resprouter so if you just knock the top off it at the ground level or above, it will re-sprout and re-grow so it becomes very costly to manage,” Cook said. “It's also a very prolific seed producer so there are also many new seedlings that come up each year."

Hungerford said events like Tuesday’s are the best way they've found to get out the information. It gives them a chance to speak one-on-one with ag producers and answer any questions they may have.

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