Hogs equal cash

Having been raised on a small farm in northeast Texas, it’s hard for me to look at a hog, feral or domestic, as a pest but when it comes to feral hogs, I’ve had to change my thinking.

Wild hogs do a great deal of damage to ranch and farmland and create problems for native wildlife, especially ground nesting birds such as turkey and quail. Their numbers have to be controlled, I get that. But, it’s still hard for me to see all that good eating pork going to waste.

After a successful hunting trip when I have several hams and backstraps from ‘eater’ hogs in the cooler, I feel as though I went to nature’s meat market to procure my pork chops for free. Yes, wild pork can be great eating but the truth is that logistically it’s impossible to control wild hog numbers and put every pork chop on someone’s dinner plate.

Hunting alone will never come close to keeping wild hog numbers in check. My biologist buddies tell me in order to keep wild hog populations at the current level, about 70 percent of their numbers must be reduced each year.

I was hunting wild hogs before it became cool and for decades have made sausage and cured ham from wild hogs. The meat is high in protein and low in fat and when cooked correctly, very tasty.

I actually prefer eating smaller wild hogs to their domestic counterparts. Granted, not all wild hogs make great table fare.

When asked, “Luke, are wild hogs good eating”? I often answer with a question of my own, “If you were going to a livestock sale to buy a hog to butcher, would you purchase an old, tough boar or a younger, fatter animal?” The answer is a ‘no brainer’.

This past weekend, I visited with Steven Waugh, a licensed wild hog buyer in Kaufman County. Steven is one of many hog buyers across the state that is licensed by the Texas Animal Health Commission to operate a holding facility to buy live trapped hogs. Each hog is weighed and documented at the holding facilities.

The hogs are shipped alive to Texas Natural Meats , a USDA inspected processing plant in Lott, Texas where they are butchered and the meat sold to restaurants and individuals all across the US and Europe.

“We receive hundreds of wild hogs each month. Most are brought in by trappers that operate within a 50 mile radius of our facility in Kaufman County.” Says Waugh. “Many trappers bring the hogs to our facility but we will also go to them and load the hogs at the trap site, then transport them back to the facility, weigh them and mail them a check. “ Prices for live wild hogs average thirty to thirty five cents per pound currently and a bonus is paid for larger hogs.

While visiting at Waugh’s facility I watched him and his friend Mark weigh and tally up the price for a group of hogs they had picked up earlier in the day. The hogs were trapped nearby by a rancher that not only removed some hay meadow rooters from his landscape but will soon receive a nice check through the mail for his efforts. Waugh will in turn make a profit when he sells the hogs to the processing facility and ultimately the pork will wind up on someone’s dinner plate at a fine restaurant. A win-win situation for all concerned!

In my opinion, this program for turning wild hogs into dollars is wonderful. The old saying about lemons and making lemonade translate perfectly to wild hogs, Texas has them and they are likely here to stay. There is a product on the market now called HogStop that’s sold only by Hi-Pro Feeds that sterilizes the boars but for it to be really effective, I believe it would have to be used widespread across the state.

Because of cost of feeders and the product, I doubt seriously if it will have much effect on the overall wild hog population. A few years ago, a product containing Warfarin, used to poison rats and also used as a blood thinner for humans, caused much controversy and was banned for use in Texas. I was one hundred percent against the use of any poison to control hogs.

This particular product was said to turn the meat of hogs that ingested it blue. A bad, bad idea and I for one am happy its use was not allowed.

Hunting and especially hunting at night with thermal scopes certainly removes wild hogs as does hunting with dogs and shooting them from helicopters but trapping is by far the best method of removing hogs. A good trapper can remove an entire sounder of hogs from a ranch instead of scattering the hogs using other means. Traps have come a long way from the old catch pens of decades ago with a guillotine type door attached to a trip wire.

State of the art traps equipped with cameras and doors activated by and app on a smart phone are used by serious modern day trappers. Granted, the cost of purchasing the trap system is considerably more than the old style traps but they can quickly pay for themselves with hogs caught and brought to the buying facility.

After touring the holding facility, I followed Waugh to a ranch nearby where the landowner had caught and ultimately sold around 400 hogs in the past year. The landowner said prior to trapping, he used thermal scopes to shoot the hogs but once he learned he could turn the hogs into profit, he began his live trapping operation.

He still has plenty of hogs roaming the bottomland on his ranch but not nearly as many as before he began trapping. Estimating the average weight of each of the 400 hogs at say, 70 pounds at an average weight of thirty cents per pound, It’s pretty easy to see hog wild hogs can be turned into dollars.

To locate a wild hog buying facility in your area, visit www.tahc. texas. gov/ animal_ health/swine/FeralSwineFacilities. pdf Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio. org

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