Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Shore up sheds to limit rodent levels

As the autumn progresses and the weather begins to turn wet and cold, rats and mice will begin to choose winter accommodation and food sources.

Full grain stores are top of their preferred list so rigorous pest control is required to prevent an influx of rodents onto the farm.

A pair of breeding rats can generate a colony of up to 800 in just one year, while mice are capable of generating 2,728 from a single pair.

To avoid rapid infestation, Colm Moore, technical manager of Rentokil Ltd, has some sound advice.

Preventing access to stores and sheds is the first line of defence against rats and mice.

"Proof your buildings by sealing up gaps, cementing up holes and make it as difficult as possible for them to get in," he said. "Use bristle strips under doors because they don't like the sensation on their backs."

Cleaning up grain and feed spillages and storing feed in bins or storage containers are essential to making the farm as unattractive as possible to rodents.

"Keep the place as tidy and neat as possible. Rats and mice love hiding in clutter: boxes, old machinery, you name it," he added. "They like places where you tend not to move things frequently, but if your place is tidy you are making it less favourable to them."

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Bait is only effective if the rats have no alternative source of food, so reducing feed sources is key to effective poisoning. Bait boxes should be fixed in locations where rats and mice are likely to be, such as points of access or the perimeter of a shed. Over time, farmers will know from the amount of bait being eaten where the greater population of rats is located.

They are agile climbers, using their tails to balance, and are often found living in the upper floors of barns. Rats have poor eyesight and typically move along habitual pathways, using their sense of touch in a process called thigmotaxis, which means they rely on muscle memory to move the same way every time.

Interrupting the breeding cycle is the most effective way of reducing the population. "The amount of poison required to kill a rat depends on the age and health of the individual animal but bait should be replaced every six weeks," he concluded.

Irish Independent