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Hog Outlook: Wild boars are vectors known to carry and spread diseases such as African swine fever.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

December 12, 2022

3 Min Read
Pack of wild boars wandering in the grass
HALT THE SPREAD: Infected feral swine herds, or sounders, could expedite the spread of diseases such as African swine fever to domestic herds should the highly lethal pig disease make it to American soil. JohnCarnemolla/Getty Images

Everything has its place, and when an element is misplaced, it loses its value.

For instance, healthy soil is the foundation of any crop operation. But if that soil ends up where it shouldn’t be, such as in a road’s ditch or on your house’s carpet, it becomes dirt. Likewise, a healthy plant in a row crop or pasture will provide a farmer a rich harvest or food for livestock. However, if a plant grows where it shouldn’t, it merely becomes a weed.

Same goes for hogs. Pigs raised in barns or open lots are valuable commodities for pig farmers across the country. However, herds of pigs not contained or raised for production purposes are increasing. These feral hogs are on an entirely different level than the mere nuisance of dirt on a rug or velvetleaf in a soybean field.

According to USDA, about 6 million feral swine roam at least 35 states. The number of feral swine is increasing, along with the damage they inflict on farm crops, estimated at $2.5 billion to U.S. agriculture annually. That’s not to mention the damage they do to private property and natural resources.

The physical damage caused by feral swine is daunting, but the harm they could do to their domestic brethren could turn the entire hog industry and the U.S. economy on its ear.

ASF risk

Various vectors are responsible for the spread of African swine fever, and among them are feral swine, or wild boars, present in the European and Asian countries where ASF is present.

ASF has yet to reach the U.S. swine herd, and we want to keep it that way. We also want to keep the feral swine population under control, if not lessened.

An Iowa State University study estimates that an ASF outbreak would costs the U.S. swine industry as much as $50 billion over 10 years. If ASF is found in the country, pork exports would come to a halt. The sooner an outbreak would be contained, the sooner the U.S. pork industry would be able to get back to business as usual. The presence of wild boars makes containment that much harder.

map showing the prevalence of feral swine in the United States in 2021

Having feral swine does not equate to having ASF. But should ASF reach the United States and infect a feral swine herd, the highly lethal infectious hog disease could more easily spread from the wild herd to domestic production herds.

It’s important to remember that ASF, though lethal for pigs, is not harmful to humans.

Boar hunting is big sport in some parts of the country, and it makes sense that those areas are where the feral swine population exists. Boar hunters, do your job and the U.S. hog industry will owe you a debt of gratitude.

In addition to hunters, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service created a collaborative, national feral swine damage management program in 2014 with assistance from Congress. This was before ASF started ravaging the Asian swine herd and spreading across Europe, so the importance of such a program only increases as ASF spreads.

As with any livestock disease, prevention and containment are critical. That same approach goes for the U.S. feral swine herd, which must be contained or decreased to reduce its geographic reach and potential to spread an industry-crippling disease such as ASF.

Schulz, a Farm Progress senior staff writer, grew up on the family hog farm in southern Minnesota, before a career in ag journalism, including National Hog Farmer.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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