Rodents are out in force again this winter and farmers are being urged to protect straw stacks amid tight supplies.
The poor 2020 harvest means growers and livestock producers should adopt a pro-active approach to protecting straw bales from rodents seeking cover, harbourage and winter feed, says Bayer national account manager Ken Black.
“Thorough rodent control is going to be especially vital this winter,” he says. Straw prices are up by over 40% on this time last year, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, reflecting limited availability.
Mr Black suggests a three-point plan to keep rodents out of the straw shed this winter. First, producers should ensure the area around the shed is free from debris and undergrowth. Secondly, they should monitor for rodents and pinpoint any areas of high activity.
“Farmers can visually monitor for signs of activity by checking for droppings, footprints and chewed bales or string or they can place perimeter bait boxes around the shed with grain in, to monitor for signs of rodent feeding activity,” he says.
The third and final course of action is to use rodenticides. “Remember, that anyone purchasing and applying these treatments must have appropriate qualifications and adhere to guidelines set out by the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, which is a requirement of farm assurance.”
When it comes to selecting the appropriate rodenticide, the same active ingredient can be found in several different formulations, for example, in blocks or grain. Typically for a farm environment. a combination of both baits offers the most successful control.
The selected formulation should aim to give the best chance of bait uptake. Rodenticide resistance to the active ingredients bromodialone and difenacoumn is a growing problem so any decision on which to use comes back to your knowledge of the particular site.
“Blocks can be fastened in place and therefore minimise the risk of contamination, but they’re not necessarily as palatable as a soft block or paste. Grain baits are however usually a popular choice in the farm environment as it’s often similar to the food source on the farm.
“Rodent populations are high again this year and with straw a very valuable asset this winter, it’s important producers take
an integrated approach by physically clearing the at-risk areas, by monitoring populations and applying rodenticides where appropriate.”