4 June 1999

Careful planning hits rabbits hard

RABBIT damage to crops is still under-estimated on arable farms.

But a well-planned control strategy can hit the pest hard at relatively low cost and involving minimal farm labour.

"Farmers in some areas are kidding themselves if they think they are only getting a few hundred £s worth of rabbit damage each year," farmer Jim Sutherland told a meeting organised by FWAG-Angus.

"In almost all crops, the value of the total-loss area at the edge of a crop is far exceeded by the value of the loss in the rest of the field." On his 587ha (1450-acre) Borders farm, losses were estimated at £10,000-£15,000 a year, including one-third of the grain harvest.

Since the early 1990s Mr Sutherland has used a combination of netting and drop traps to control rabbits. Now they are no longer a problem. "You can afford to spend money on netting. Originally we planned to spend £15,000 over five years, but we saw how effective it was and did it over just six months." By allowing rabbits into a crop for 13 days, and setting traps once a fortnight, large areas can be almost cleared, he says. &#42