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Rodent populations can quickly take hold on a farm, particularly during the colder months when food supplies become scarce out in the fields.
Farm managers can take measures to reduce rodent populations as well as making use of rodenticides to eliminate infestations. Any farmer using poison to kill rats, mice and other rodents must, by law, hold a certificate of competence.
Rats and mice have long been a problem on UK farms. During World War II, the Ministry of Agriculture began a campaign to highlight the destruction that rodents could cause on food production with a leaflet entitled “Kill those rats! It’s doing Hitler’s work”.
Rodents present a significant risk to both human and livestock health. They can spread disease, damage equipment and machinery, infest grains and commodities, contaminate food and damage crops.
In the UK, the most common types of rodents found on farms are brown rats and house mice. Both are considered the most serious type of rodent pest to agriculture.
Farms are also home to threatened species of rodents which are subject to conservation measures, including the harvest mouse, dormouse, black rat and squirrels.
Rodents are particularly present on farms because of the abundance of food, shelter and water. The more readily available these resources are, the higher the capacity of the farm to rodent populations.
Integrated Rodent Management (IRM) is a proactive approach to safely and effectively control rodent populations in an effective, economical and sustainable long-term process.
IRM involves monitoring the farm, land and buildings for signs of rodent activity, maintaining the environment in a way which does not attract and support rats and mice, applying proofing measures to prevent rodent access and implementing physical and chemical controls to eradicate infestations.
Farmers should survey their fields and property for rodents on a weekly basis, all year round. A programme of cleaning removes food sources, for example by cleaning up grain spills and implementing good storage practices. Proofing involves filling gaps to prevent entry, containing livestock feed and removing possible nesting areas.
Physical controls to control rodent populations include the use of live capture and killing traps. Trapping is labour intensive and can be costly to implement. The use of physical traps is usually only effective for small infestations but it does have advantages such as resulting in no chemical residues which could be harmful to other wildlife.
Most rodent control measures on farms will include the use of rodenticide as part of an integrated programme.
The use of poison bait has come under close scrutiny in recent years because of its potential impact on non-target species. Research has found residues of chemical control compounds in the bodies of predatory and scavenging species of animals and birds.
The most common form of rodenticide used on UK farms are anticoagulants which cause death by preventing blood from clotting. Anticoagulants are slow acting and so treatment must be applied over a period of time until a lethal dose has been consumed.
Rodenticides are very toxic, particularly to mammals and birds. Misuse can result in prosecution. The CRRU was established to ensure rodenticides are used safely and correctly.
Reporting to HSE, the UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime is managed by the CRRU. To buy and use rodenticides, farmers must have a certificate of competence.
The most cost-effective and safe way to implement an Integrated Rodent Management programme, and to use rodenticides to control rat and mice problems, is to engage the services of a specialist pest control company.
Contact our experts at Pest.co.uk to find out how we can help you control rodent problems on the farm.
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