Monday, December 11, 2017

Autumn’s arrival means it is time to control rodents

October 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

Action is needed against rodents as the nights draw in and temperatures fall, says David Reece.

With harvest completed and many of next season’s crops already emerging, outdoor food sources for rodents are starting to dwindle. Temperatures are dropping – often sharply at night – encouraging rats and mice to seek shelter, warmth and nourishment inside.

Warm, wet conditions this summer provided ideal breeding conditions for rodents, so there are plenty about, even if they are not immediately visible, making it vital to monitor farm buildings, straw stacks, forage clamps and other areas that they might be tempted to call home for the winter.

Watch out for the warning signs and be prepared to take quick, effective action using modern, highly-effective rodenticides, as current legislation only allows you 42 days to deal with a rodent issue or prove that it still exists.

Kill percentage

Rodents multiply at an alarming rate. A single breeding pair of brown rats, for example, can become 200 in a year and two mice can multiply to 60 in three months. Controlling them requires a high kill percentage, because even a small number can repopulate an area very quickly.

Complying with food safety legislation and farm assurance schemes requires ever-higher standards, so rodent control must be a priority, carefully-planned and done pro-actively rather than on a reactive basis.

To achieve this, you will need knowledge, skill and attention to detail, or employ an approved pest control contractor. If you choose the latter, it is essential to find one with specialist knowledge of rural situations, which are completely different to working in an urban environment.

Here are some key points which you need to know to control rodents effectively:

• Rats generally live outside in burrows and only venture indoors in search of food. They will generally eat grain end-on, so if you see a lot of half-eaten grains it’s likely they are responsible. Mice often live entirely indoors and chew around grain leaving a lot of chaff.

• The area around buildings must be clean and tidy, creating a wide, clear buffer zone which rodents will be reluctant to cross because it exposes them to predation. Clean up any clutter, piles of straw as these provide refuge and make the transition easier

• Monitor for signs of activity, such as droppings, urine, rub and tail marks, tracks, new burrows around the site, footprints or damage to the fabric of buildings caused by gnawing. If several rodents are present you should be able to smell them.

• Just because you have not seen rats or mice it doesn’t mean that they are not there, and don’t think that they will just go away – they won’t. Instead, you’ll quickly be infested – then the problem will be much more difficult, time consuming and expensive to control.

• Consider the use of motion-sensing cameras to monitor activity at suspected sites. Modern purpose-built grain and feed stores are generally well designed and should be rodent proof, but if poorly constructed may provide multiple access points.

• Repair any gaps in walls/doors or gutters/downpipes, block potential entry points as soon as possible and implement effective control measures to deal with those that do get in. On-floor drying systems make it easy for rodents to access the building, so cover any potential entry points.

• Even the most rodent-proof buildings will only be effective when doors are shut, so close them securely at the end of the day. Clear up spilled feed and grain where possible, although this is difficult in areas where livestock are fed.

• Thoroughly clean machinery which has been in contact with grain, such as combine harvesters and drills, once the season ends as this will provide cover and feed. Rodents can cause considerable damage to machinery, so it is worth keeping them under control.

• Store bedding away from feed where possible so that rodents do not have a one area where they can obtain both. Check electrical wiring for damage – a quarter of farm fires are caused by rodents damaging electrical installations.

Experienced pest controllers will monitor the situation very carefully after harvest, test-bait heavily and if sufficient signs of rodents exist to warrant action they will do so using proven methods, correct techniques and high-quality, fast-acting products.

The first step is to put down a monitoring bait to confirm the presence of rodents. Non-toxic monitoring blocks or pastes contain a substance that makes rodent urine glow under ultra-violet light, allowing easier detection. If that yields positive results, take immediate action.

Many cheap block-type baits are ineffective. Rats often store them away like a squirrel stores nuts, so just because bait is being taken don’t assume it is being consumed. Use a new-generation product which is more palatable to ensure rodents consume a lethal dose.

Signs of activity

Position outside bait containers next to walls well before baiting begins so rodents become familiar with them. Site internal bait boxes where there are signs of activity, or rodents are likely to track. It is illegal to leave bait out all the time and empty bait stations make convenient nesting sites.

Burrow baiting – introducing bait into the area where they prefer to eat – can be very effective against rats and reduces the risk to non-target species. But you must follow the “little and often” principle and retrieve unconsumed bait.

Finally, don’t wait for a rodent problem to develop before doing something about it. Start by minimising the site’s attractiveness to rodents by keeping it clean and tidy, minimise food sources and take early action when required..

David Reece is technical adviser to Lodi UK, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of pest control products.

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