Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Be proactive to reduce Chance of Infestation

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Weighing in at around 400g, this mammal ranges over an area of up to 3km from its home and can jump more than two feet vertically, or leap four feet horizontally.

It can swim at a speed of 1.5km per hour and stay afloat for 72 hours without drowning. It can climb telephone wires, vertical walls and squeeze through a gap of less than 25mm. This is an athletic, clever and adaptable mammal. This is the brown rat.

With lower grain prices in 2013, more grain will be stored on farms this autumn. Tillage farmers are storing their crop in the hope that prices will rise in the weeks and months ahead, while more livestock farmers have bought grain to replace scarce forage supplies following the spring fodder crisis.

As the preferred diet of rodents such as the brown rat and house mice, these cereals are at risk of being plundered in the stores. While the economic losses from rodent damage may be small, the health threat from these pests is far more significant.

Mice can contaminate feed and other materials through the droppings they leave behind, spreading bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

Their larger cousin, the rat, poses an even bigger health risk to humans and pets.

Common diseases carried by rats include Salmonella, Weil's disease, E.coli and Tuberculosis. Rats also carry fleas, mites and ticks and can cause acute allergic reactions.

Dr Colm Moore, technical manager with pest control firm Rentokil, said farmers need to stop rats and mice getting into stores if at all possible.

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He recommended sealing up gaps in walls and using bristle strips under doors because rats and mice detest the sensation of the bristles on their backs.


Feed stores should be kept as clean as possible and on livestock farms, storing loose feed in bins or storage containers is advised.

Sweep up any feed that is spilled immediately, eliminating a potential feed source for the rodents.

Dr Moore added that a tidy farmyard was far less likely to attract rodents in the first place because rats and mice like to hide out in clutter.

If sheds are kept neat and tidy with a regular movement of machinery, boxes and potential rodent hideouts, they are unlikely to choose it as a nest area.

Where large amounts of grain are stored on a farm, it is almost impossible to keep it completely inaccessible. In such cases, pest control measures such as bait will be needed.

Poison baits contain anti-coagulant ingredients that block the essential chemistry required for blood clotting and after taking several sub-lethal doses over a number of feeds, the rat will die of haemorrhaging from minor injuries.

According to BASF, manufacturer of Storm and Neosorexa baits, today's farmers need to have a more effective rodent control plan than in previous years.

"Although farm auditing has yet to reach present food industry levels – where premises can fail inspections if even a single dead mouse is found – a progressive tightening of standards is inevitable," the company warned.

Carl Hunter, key business manager with Rentokil, warned that tightening of legislation on poison baits was also in the pipeline.

"It is coming down the line that we will not be able to routinely put out bait on a continuous basis," he warned. "It is already in place in Germany and the UK and we could soon see that in Ireland. The idea is to prevent wild animals from being poisoned mistakenly."

Irish Independent