In November, Texas pork producer Chuck Real purchased three new boars at one of the country’s largest purebred breeding stock sales and brought them back to the isolation barn at his mother’s farm. One morning, he went out to check on his new boars and quickly realized his group of three had grown to four.
“A big old black boar was circling around the isolation barn,” Real says. “He wasn’t in with our boars, but it was too close for comfort. We are going to pull blood from the boars again before we move them into our herd.”
Sadly, this story is not uncommon for some Texas pig farmers. With the increasing wild pig population in Texas, producers have one more concern to keep on top of when it comes to protecting their herds.
“We have wild pigs within miles of our place, but they normally don’t come up near our barns,” Real says. “Every few years, we run into them rooting around in a creek nearby. We have a lot of open pasture, grass, and crop land around us. Wild pigs generally like to be more protected than that.”
Real remembers running into a wild boar 25 years ago out by his sows.
“I shot him and pulled blood,” Real says. “He came up negative, but it’s important to be sure and check. We don’t run into many wild pigs carrying brucellosis or pseudorabies around here, but you can never be too careful.”
Pseudorabies has been around in the U.S. for at least 150 years, according to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Although feral swine remain as a reservoir for this disease in the U.S., currently, all 50 states are considered free of pseudorabies in commercial production swine herds.
Unfortunately, the disease still poses a threat to producers trying to raise hogs in areas with wild pigs. Real shared a story of a Texas pig farmer who had to depopulate his entire herd because they acquired pseudorabies from wild pigs.
“It’s a tremendous financial loss,” Real says. “You may get a little indemnity money, but it’s not much. It puts a band aid on the problem. You can’t recover those lost genetics with a little money.”
Real has served on board of the Texas Animal Health Commission and the Texas Pork Producers Association, among others, for many years and has delved deep into the issue of wild pigs, especially as a disease threat to the Texas domestic pig herd.
Brandon Gunn, executive vice president of the Texas Pork Producers Association, says their organization is working with the Texas Animal Health Commission, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and U.S. Department of Animal Health to monitor and prepare for the potential of a disease outbreak.
“Everyone is being very proactive in working together to gather intelligence, engage subject matter experts, assess risk and determine appropriate actions moving forward to address the issue,” Gunn says. “Texas, like other states, is coordinating exercises with appropriate groups to help prepare in case of a foreign animal disease outbreak.”
Gunn says education is important. The Texas Pork Producers Association works hard to provide timely and relevant information to members so they can stay on top of the latest biosecurity measures, disease protocols, and information to help make decisions to protect their herds.
“We can put all the rules and regulations into effect that we want,” Real says. “But these wild pigs are already everywhere. It’s an uphill battle.”