A joint initiative between Farmers Guardian and the BASF aims to help farmers identify solutions in rodent control on farm during the winter.
This year’s National Farm Rodent Control Study conducted by Farmers Guardian in partnership with BASF aims to confirm evidence of the scale and implications of the major upsurge in rat and mouse problems reported by farms across the country last winter.
Following the success with which last year’s study predicted these problems, it could also provide a valuable early warning of similar, if not greater, rodent challenges in the winter ahead.
Not least with troublesome rat infestations continuing right through to last spring in many cases followed by reasonable breeding conditions over the past summer.
BASF co-ordinator, Gavin Wood, says: “A net 36 per cent of the 261 farms taking part in our 2014 study last November reported a noticeable year-on-year increase in their autumn rodent problems compared to just 13 per cent the previous year.”
“The fact this escalation was evident across all farm types confirmed the winter was set to be a bad one for rats in particular., which is exactly what proved to be the case.
“Indeed, our own tracking of national rodenticide use suggests last winter saw the highest level of farm infestations for at least a decade.
“How much last season’s legacy carries over into the coming winter is very much in the lap of the weather gods,” he said. “Cold weather will almost certainly bring rats into farmsteads in large numbers. But another especially mild winter like 2013/14 may let us off the hook.”
While weather will always play a key role in determining rodent pressures, Gavin Wood is at pains to point out the extent to which rat and mouse problems build-up over the winter remains very much in farmers’ own hands; a fact that has become crystal clear in six years’ of monitoring through the National Farm Rodent Control Study.
“It’s all a matter of hitting infestations hard and early,” he explains. “Our annual study analyses show those employing a quality rodenticide have fewer rodent problems than those using other baits.
“As do those baiting at the first signs of infestation and wherever rodent activity can be detected rather than only once rats and mice become obvious and where they are seen.
“Comprehensive, early, quality baiting ensures populations are well-controlled before they get so large and entrenched that they become particularly difficult to dislodge.
“Importantly too, it means fewer survivors, reducing the risk of resistance development and the speed with which infestations can re-establish. After all, with 50 rats a 90 per cent control rate leaves just five individuals, but the same level of control with 300 leaves 30, which can easily become 300 again within a couple of months.”
Encouragingly, last year’s study showed the majority of farms are now opting for the most productive treatment strategy as well as choosing quality rodenticides.
Although around 93 per cent of farmers are regularly inspecting for signs of rodent activity, it also showed barely half are using more than enough bait points and siting them following survey.
Equally only a third appear to be rodent-proofing alternative food sources and, by failing to follow these and other key elements of best baiting practice, many are clearly limiting their ability to keep on top of rodent problems.
“As so many people found last year to their cost in farm damage and contaminated feed and grain, there is a lot at stake these days,” adds Gavin.
“Now we’re legally allowed to use the most powerful ‘single feed’ rodenticides around as well as within buildings we have a valuable extra weapon in the fight against difficult-to-control farm rats, in particular.
But we need to be especially careful how we use it to minimise the risk to pets and other wildlife.
“Since the best multi-feed rodenticides remain as effective as single feed products in most situations, only use the more powerful options outside when you know or suspect you have resistance,” he advised.
“Outside of buildings choose a hard or soft block which can be fastened securely within well-covered and protected bait stations to minimise the danger of removal by foraging rodents and exposure non target species.”
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