Feral hog program set October 4

Jon Gersbach
Extension Agent

Mark your calendars for a Feral Hog Management Seminar to be held on Friday, Oct. 4 at the Thorndale Fireman’s Hall in Thorndale. The seminar will feature experts from Texas A& M Agrilife Extension Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and other agencies to discuss with agriculture producers, landowners, wildlife managers, and the general public regarding ways to help manage the damage caused by the population explosion of feral hogs in the area.

Topics such as general biology, habits, and life cycle of feral hogs will be discussed. Also, timing of certain control measure to maximize efficiency based upon their nutritional needs will be presented. Disease transmission and negative impact to other wildlife as well as impact to watershed health will be addressed. Laws regarding the trapping, hunting, transport, and required licenses will also be discussed. A demonstration by the Nobel Foundation from Ardmore Oklahoma will show a new trapping device that is being developed that shows promise as “a better mousetrap” to trap hogs on a larger and more convenient scale.

Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the program will begin at 9 a.m. Cost of the seminar will be $20 per person and will include lunch and refreshments. There will be CEUs available for those who hold a TDA Pesticide Applicators License. The program will conclude at 2:30 p.m.

To pre-register or if you have any questions, please contact the Texas A& M Agrilife Extension Office–Milam County Office at 254-697-7045. Please pre-register by Tuesday, Oct. 1 so that adequate meal plans can be made.

LOW OXYGEN IN FARM PONDS—As the water levels in our farm ponds become lower and lower, and the temperatures become warmer, you may become concerned with the potential for fish kills based on low oxygen levels in the water. Fish kills can be exacerbated by overstocking and any death of pond vegetation that may occur.

Fish kills occur due to several factors. As available water volume decreases, vegetation, fish, and other organisms die in the pond, the decomposition process takes available water oxygen away from organisms to use for breathing. Also, if the pond is overstocked, there are more fish requiring the same amount of oxygen to survive in an environment that has less saturated oxygen.

Signs of low oxygen levels in a farm pond are fish skimming the surface of the water in an attempt to pass higher oxygenated water across their gills. You will typically notice larger fish dying first due to a higher requirement of oxygen to survive. Smaller fish can often survive because they require less oxygen as compared to their larger brethren.

Most ponds are constructed in a manner in which they become narrower in diameter as they near the bottom of the pond. Therefore, as water levels decrease, not only does the depth of water reduce, the volume does as well because there is less volume of water as it nears the bottom of the pond. That water near the bottom can also become less oxygenated due to the higher amount of decomposing plant and animal tissue and infrequency of oxygen being available to the lower zones of the pond water.

There are some things you can do to improve the oxygen levels in the pond. First, by reducing the population of fish in the pond, you can improve the availability of oxygen to the fish. This can be obtained by fishing or seining the pond and harvesting the fish removed. You could also relocate the fish to another pond that may have less population of fish. Another option is to make sure that the pond has access to wind. Wind across the pond creates ripples and waves, and wave action introduces oxygen into the water.

Make sure not to do any aquatic weed control during a time of low oxygen as that will add decomposing plant matter to the system and further reduce the oxygen available in the pond. Finally, you can add an aeration device. Anything that serves to thrash, move, or stir the water will help introduce water into the system.

There is equipment sold for just this purpose. There are tractor mounted thrashers that can be used to stir the water. There are many different types of aerators. If you have access to electricity, this may be an excellent investment for the long term management of a fish pond. Select stone bubblers over the more ornamental fountains. The bubblers sit right at the surface of the water and push water through very porous stone which creates lots of tiny bubbles that give more opportunity to pick up atmospheric oxygen.

In a pinch, a gasoline driven water pump can be used to bring in water from the pond and discharge it back into the pond. Position the outtake of the water in a manner that will go through the air and allow the stream to break apart as it travels. The water from the stream will pick up water as well as create splashing when it hits the surface of the pond. However, any aeration practice should be conducted during the overnight hours to reduce the opportunity for water to more rapidly evaporate.

Your best option is to manage your pond as best you can to eliminate the need for aeration. If you are fertilizing or feeding the pond, make sure that you have an established system to remove fish annually from the pond to keep the fish population in check. A fish survey using a seine will go a long way to examine the development, health, condition, and quantity of different spawns of fish. Sometimes, nature will correct overpopulations by events like fish kills and turnovers. Typically, the fish population will recover and continue to be strong.

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