Answered Questions

Q: Have you found the wild pig an increasing problem for farmers and cropland? Texas has gotten completely out of hand and I’m curious to the extend in MS. Thanks

Lee,

Thanks for your question about feral hogs.  They are indeed a serious problem for farmers and also for city folks!

Bronson Strickland, wildlife specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said several factors are contributing to the rapid expansion of wild hogs across the nation.

“Wild hog populations are successful and spreading because of their diets, habitats, reproductive ability and low mortality rates,” he said. “They eat anything and lots of it; they can live anywhere; they reproduce early, often and have four to six babies each time; and humans are their only predators. Unfortunately, humans also have helped them expand by transporting them to other areas for hunting.”

For hunters who think this population explosion means an unlimited supply of meat, Strickland warned that some hunters may grow old sitting in a deer stand waiting for a shot at a wild hog. Whether a landowner’s goal is an agricultural product or wildlife conservation, wild hogs will prevent optimum success.

Strickland, a researcher with the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center, said wild hogs and natural wildlife compete for resources, and the hogs usually win. Hogs will be a direct threat to young wildlife, including deer, turkey and quail, but their greatest damage comes from the amount of food they consume, depriving wildlife of nourishment by reducing their food supplies, such as acorns.

“Wild hogs eat 3 to 5 percent of their body weight daily, and they just need to be within a day’s walk of water,” he said.

Here’s a website from Mississippi State University that tells about the problem.  http://wildpiginfo.msstate.edu/

And here’s a video put together  by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation that gives an overview of the issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNJRhhTN4-Y

Q: Are you concerned about the nutrient runoff to the Mississippi River and what have you found that decreases it?

A: Farming operations can contribute to excess levels of nutrients in the Mississippi River if they are not properly managed. However, farmers are concerned about this and have taken measures to reduce nutrient runoff by using best management practices that have been developed through scientific research conducted by state and federal agencies.

Some of the practices that farmers use include:

 

–              Nutrient management – advanced technologies have allowed farmers to determine the exact amount of fertilizer that is needed and the exact location where that fertilizer should be placed.  By using only the amount needed and putting it only on the part of the field that needs it, farmers not only help the environment, they save money on fertilizer as well.

–              Planting cover crops and buffer zones – by planting grasses, trees, and shrubs on highly erodible soil and in riparian areas (land closest to bodies of water), runoff is decreased significantly and this keeps nutrients from entering the streams and tributaries that empty into the Mississippi River.

–              Conservation tillage – this practice reduces the number of times a farmer runs his tractor over the fields thereby reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff.

 

Technological advancement through research have produced many new practices like these and many others that help the farmer protect the environment while at the same time increasing his ability to provide all of us the food, fiber, and fuel that we need every day.

Q: My neighbor swears that all chickens are fed hormones to make them grow bigger and faster. Is that true?

A: No chickens are fed hormones or steroids in this country. The use of such substances was banned decades ago. Federal regulations strictly prohibit the use of hormones and steroids in raising poultry. If used in chickens today, hormones could not be fed to be effective, they would need to be injected frequently throughout the life of a chicken. Growth hormones are proteins, like insulin, and must be injected to be effective.  This would be very impractical and costly in today’s commercial industry.

 

So, if hormones are not fed to chickens, then how do they grow so big so quickly? The fact is that several decades ago it took almost twice as long to achieve the same weight on a broiler chicken than it does today. This has been accomplished through improvements in genetics, nutrition and management conditions. The poultry industry has genetically selected for birds that produce more meat. Through research and technology the modern industry can now produce highly nutritious meat with the most efficiency by feeding the birds with high quality feeds and providing environmental conditions that are ideal to reduce stress and diseases.

Q: Does all the milk at the grocery store contain antibiotics except for organic milk?

A: No. Any milk that tests positive for antibiotics is not allowed into the food cycle. Antibiotic use in dairy cattle is limited only to treatment of sick animals and are prescribed in a certain amount  and administered in a specific method to guarantee that antibiotic use is regulated.  In addition, milk is tested both on the farm and before it enters the processing plant to safeguard against the possibility of antibiotics entering our food supply from dairy cattle that have been treated. The U.S. dairy industry conducts more than 3.3 million tests each year on all milk entering dairy plants to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. And how many test positive? Less than one in 3,000 tankers. This milk is immediately disposed of to guarantee we cannot consume it.

Q: We live in Biloxi. How do we buy food grown in Mississippi? We shop mostly at Walmart. Except for farm raised catfish and seasonal sweet potatoes, it is impossible for us to identify where the produce comes from. Please give us some advice. We would like to support you, but don’t know how.

A: Thanks for that great question!

 

In the Biloxi – Gulfport – Long Beach area here are some places you can find locally grown & raised foods including meats, vegetables, fruits, and local honey:

 

Seasonal items at Wal-Mart are labeled MS grown

Rouse’s Market on Pass Road in Gulfport 

Farmers Markets in Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi

Sidney’s Marketplace on Pass Road in Gulfport

Health Nuts in Gulfport off Lorraine Rd

Charlie’s U-Pik in Lucedale is a wonderful place to get all kinds of fresh summer produce.  They have already picked or pick your own.

Look also for items labeled Country Girl Creamery and Eubanks farms which are available on the coast.

 

Hope these suggestions are helpful.  You can also find great recipes on our website.

Thank You for supporting our Mississippi Farm Families!

 

Nancy Freeman

Consulting Home Economist

Farm Families of Mississippi

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