Rats and mice spread disease and thrive in poultry sheds where food and shelter are plentiful.
Rats can thrive in poultry sheds and multiply quickly, with one breeding pair escalating to 2,000 in just one year.
“Protecting poultry sheds does not have to involve the use of rodenticides,” advises Helen Ainsworth from BASF.
“Farmers can take many non-chemical measures such as proofing buildings, identifying areas that rodents may be using for harbourage and making regular checks by walking the farm,” she says.
- Look for signs of rats and mice, such as droppings and gnaw marks. Make a farm plan and regularly walk the farm to look for burrows and record where rodent activity is apparent. “Just because there are signs of rodents, it doesn’t mean baiting in that area will always be totally effective. Understanding areas that rodents are using to access food and water and identifying likely places of harbourage can help make trapping or baiting much more effective,” explains Ms Ainsworth.
- Rats do not like open spaces, so farmers can reduce rodent activity by keeping the farm, especially around poultry sheds, clear of rubbish, weeds, and objects that rats can use for harbourage. “Although a simple process, keeping a farm tidy by removing rubbish can make a big difference. Rats will breed in areas where food, water and harbourage are readily available. Preventing access to food and water by securely storing food, repairing dripping taps and making sure there is no food available outside will reduce the likelihood of rats seeking harbourage and breeding on the farm,” she says.
- Proofing a building by ensuring there are no access points for rodents will help to reduce the risk of infestation. “Small measures like using mesh smaller than 10mm to cover gaps in sheds will help to prevent rats gaining access,” says Ms Ainsworth.
- Using traps within a bait box is a common way to control rats. The advantage of putting traps in bait boxes is that if rodenticides are subsequently required, the established boxes will reduce rat’s neophobic behaviour. “Rats have a fear of new objects (neophobia). Therefore, if farmers place traps in boxes that become accepted by rats, the subsequent use of rodenticides will be improved,” says Ms Ainsworth.
- When non-chemical methods have been exhausted the use of rodenticides to control rats and mice should be carried out methodically and carefully.
BASF has recently released the rodenticide Selontra, which uses the active ingredient cholecalciferol and causes death from hypercalcaemia.
It is an alternative to anticoagulant-based rodenticides, to which there is growing resistance in some parts of the UK.
“Cholecalciferol is not persistent in the environment and so also offers an opportunity to reduce the effect of rodenticides on non-target species,” added Sharon Hughes, global technical marketing manager at BASF
“Selontra works by the rodent having too much calcium in the blood.
“This means fewer, less harmful residues which will help to minimise the risk to non-target species.”