Note to Farmers – Protect your Precious Straw this Winter!
2020 has been tough for many reasons and a year of great extremes also saw a national shortage of straw with prices going through the roof as a poor summer harvest saw farmers in the North of England competing for limited stocks.
According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) limited availability has been reflected in straw prices, up by over 40% on this time last year.
Added to the mix, dropping temperatures and a lack of naturally available food sources are now driving rodents into local farm buildings and its high time to take pest control seriously so that your straw stocks have a chance to last the winter.
This season rather waiting to find stacks are damaged and contaminated, why not take a pro-active view to protecting straw bales from rodents seeking warm and dry harbourage and a chance for some easy feed? These techniques can be rolled out to protect other vulnerable areas of your farm too!
Start by having a walk around and identify key areas. Runs, holes, dirty ‘smear’ marks etc may help to identify the main routes of transit and therefore significant areas of harbourage and parts of straw being favoured for food or shelter.
Next remove all the unnecessary junk from in and around the straw shed that may be providing easy harbourage i.e., a place to hide. Rats will set up base and travel on feeding runs from these areas and may ultimately breed under them too, with obvious consequences!
Thirdly remove and unnecessary materials placed alongside against the sheds for exactly the same reason. If there’s any excess vegetation left over from the growing season, get it chopped down, stimmed back and sprayed off come spring time.
Try to limit other food sources on the farm which may compete against your proposed pest control measures or you may be disappointed by the results you are getting. Clean up, sweep up and dispose of waste feed in a sensible manner. Place loose feed in rodent proof (metal) bins where possible.
Consider proofing. Block all obvious hole in and out of the straw sheds (if it’s possible). You’re ultimately trying to make it as hard as possible to travel from exterior points of harbourage into feeding areas and every little helps.
The next step may be to introduce rodenticides. Start by placing rat boxes around the perimeter of the building and/or at areas of high activity. Draw their position on a map for your pest control file. Bait the boxes with matching grain or non-toxic bait to monitor activity. In areas of high uptake swap over to a rodenticide until consumption ceases and then swap back over to a monitoring bait. Remember to always stick to the label requirements and CRRU guidelines too as this may affect your farm assurance.
Choose a suitable type of rodenticide. The brand of rodenticide isn’t as important as you think. We often hear farmers telling us they favour certain expensive brands with fancy packaging but the formulation is typically more important, based on the time of year and other available food sources. Start with grain around straw stacks and inside storage areas or choose blocks for exterior and damper areas. Mix in ‘pasta’ and other soft formulations and assess which are working best in your environment. Use a ‘contact’ rodenticide such as Racumin Foam at points of ingress/egress and in wall cavities as part of your integrated pest control plan. Record the results/efficacy in your pest control folder and based on evidence gained choose the best course for future treatments.
Bear in mind if you’ve strategy doesn’t seem to be working that you may be fighting against a resistant strain of rodents able to consume bromodialone and difenacoumn (and certain other rodenticides) with little or no effect. Where possible capture (trap) a rodent and send its tail down to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Weybridge, Surrey who will run a DNA test to assess the potential for resistance. This free service is run by the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU). If no significant resistance is found then double your efforts in limiting access to other food sources and removing harbourage.
And lastly give us a call – whether you’d like some assistance with your pest control or just a bit of free advice, we’re here to help.
Tel: 07970 902 194