7 September 2001

Bait Now, to prevent rats bringing in F&M

By Jeremy Hunt

GETTING to grips with vermin control in the coming weeks will stop rats spreading foot-and-mouth as they move back into farm buildings this autumn.

Its essential to start baiting with poison immediately to intercept rats as they begin migrating from fields and ditches into farmsteads, says Ed Allan, ADAS senior pest control consultant.

"Rats can physically carry F&M. Thats why cleaning operations on farms hit by the disease have included rodent control.

"But even farms not affected by F&M must ensure rat populations are prevented from establishing in buildings to eliminate any risk of F&M spread."

He advises placing bait boxes strategically along routes rats take as they move back towards their winter source of food and shelter. "Traps are not 100% successful: Poison is more effective. But boxes carrying bait must be in position ready to meet advancing rats.

"Its no good putting out bait in ditches once rats have arrived. Also, ensure theres always plenty of bait on offer.

"Bait in and around buildings too, to cope with any rats which have managed to avoid bait points elsewhere," says Mr Allan.

Although there are some areas where rats have become resilient to poison, most failures to control populations are caused by poor control measures.

Rats require food, shelter and water. All efforts must be made to make buildings as inhospitable as possible to deter an invasion.

"Look at these three requirements and try to eliminate them wherever possible. There should be effective baiting close to areas where straw, hay and other feedstuffs are stored – especially where bulk feeds are stored on the floor."

But unlike mice, rats need water to survive. Rats, therefore, favour areas near dripping taps or leaky pipes. Rats also often settle down for winter inside stationary machinery, where they decimate cables and wires.

Legislation covering sale of rat poison restricts counter-sales at agricultural merchants to those trained as vermin control operators. But ADAS holds two-day training courses for producers on vermin control. Completion of the course provides certification to purchase rodenticide.

"Producers can use a contractor or the local authority to provide a vermin control service. A contractor would probably charge about £500 for year-round control."

Mr Allan says his greatest concern is the level of tolerance shown towards rats. "Many producers dont appreciate just how much damage rats do, as well as their role as carriers of diseases like F&M and leptospirosis."

A rat will eat about 30g of food a day and has an alarming propensity to breed. One pair will produce five to 10 litters a year; there are usually about 10 young in each litter and females can breed from 12 weeks old. One pair of rats can be responsible for a population of 2000 within a year.

"When you see just one rat moving around during the day there is a heavy infestation." &#42


&#8226 Start control now.

&#8226 Bait routes to buildings.

&#8226 Can spread foot-and-mouth.