Often farmers and landowners are also hunters, and that means they typically find it easier to see wild animals as potential food sources than their urban peers. Besides different types of fish, deer, rabbits, turkeys, doves, pheasants, wild turkeys, wild pigs and even bear can help the budget when they go into the freezer. Some even market these game animals as an extra source of income.
An additional benefit for some is that they are taking some of the animals off their land that feasted on their crops throughout the year.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services notes that wildlife damaged $19 million worth of soybeans and $5.6 million worth of corn in North Carolina fields in 2009, according to a statewide survey by the N.C. Agricultural Statistics Division. Damage to wheat, peanuts and cotton totaled $4.8 million.
"For some crops, animals can be as damaging as diseases, insects or the weather," Agriculture Commission Steve Troxler said on announcing the completion of the survey. "And crop loss — regardless of how it occurred — can make a difference in profitability."
Troxler noted that deer were the worst offenders. In fact, 92% of soybean and cotton farms in the survey reported damage from deer. Deer were also the top foragers on 75% of peanut farms and 60% of wheat farms reporting damage.
"Bambi is a pest," Troxler said.
The wildlife damage survey used a random sample of 1,200 North Carolina soybean, cotton, peanut, corn and wheat growers. The survey targeted only these field crops and was not designed to measure wildlife damage to other crops, such as vegetables, fruits and nursery plants.
The survey was a cooperative effort of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, N.C. Soybean Producers Association, N.C. Small Grain Growers Association, N.C. Peanut Growers Association, N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and the state Wildlife Resources Commission.
Troxler said the report provides benchmark information that farm groups, wildlife authorities and policy makers can use in future discussions about dealing with wildlife's threat to crops. The results will also benefit the Wildlife Resources Commission's educational efforts with landowners.
Fifty-three percent of farms in the survey reported using hunting to prevent wildlife damage.
The NCDA&CS has launched a Web site, "Hunt NC Farmland," to match farmers and hunters. Farmers interested in leasing their land for hunting can post on the site, and hunters can look for farms to hunt on. The site is online at www.ncagr.gov/hunt.
Hop on this marketing plan
The NCDA&CS is one of the sponsors of a new two-day course geared toward rabbit producers interested in selling rabbit meat. The course will be held May 3 and 4 at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River. The deadline to register for the course is April 27.
The NC State University Poultry Science Department is helping NCDA&CS as host of the event to provide the basics for rabbit producers. Course topics include rabbit processing, the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, small business management, good manufacturing practices and sanitation standard operating procedures.
Attendees will also participate in practical exercises as part of the course.
Cost for the workshop is $50 and includes lunch and printed materials.
Registration information is available online at www.ncagr.gov/markets/agribiz/. To register by mail, make checks payable to N.C. Ag Promotions and mail to NCDA&CS, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1020, Attn. Ron Fish.
For more information, contact Janna Spruill at (919) 733-7366 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Doug Smith at (919) 513-7157 or email@example.com.