‘Grazing the crop like stock’ — Australia’s mouse plague

The state of Victoria, Australia, is dealing with some pesky invaders right now.

Emerging crops, such as canola, are being decimated by mouse infestations, with numbers in some areas reaching plague proportions and forcing farmers to resow areas of crop. What’s more — there is a shortage of mouse bait to deal with the problem.

“I’ve been talking to farmers in the Wimmera who are saying it is the worst mice [infestation] they have seen — even worse than the most recent plague in 2011,” Ross Johns, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, told The Weekly Times.

The regions most heavily impacted are the Wimmera and the Mallee, two low-lying districts in Victoria. Other parts of the country are facing mice problems as well.

The current global glut of grain is causing all sorts of problems, and inadvertently providing mouse food is just another one of them.

“The quantity of feed in the paddocks, the very heavy crops from last year and the amount of residual grain that is left is causing us the greatest grief,” said Johns.

According to Andrew Weidemann of Grain Producers Australia, farmers in Australia have already used more than 50% of the amount of bait used in the entirety of 2011. Emergency shipments of zinc phosphide, an active ingredient in many baits, have been sent to the country.

“Not having the bait available now is a gaping hole,” he told The Weekly Times. “In situations where farmers can’t buy the bait and they’ve not been able to reduce the numbers, the mice are actually grazing the crop like stock.”

Australia has dealt with similar plagues before. A 1993 plague cost tens of millions of dollars in damages, and one in 2011 was nearly as costly. Few countries in the world experience mouse infestations on such a level. They typically occur in wet years after bumper harvests.

Videos taken of the current plague and earlier ones shows how multitudes of the rodents swarm across the ground. A single pair of mice can have hundreds of offspring in a season — so containing their populations quickly is key. Farmers hope that the upcoming Australian winter will slow breeding.

Neogen develops and markets a number of rodenticides and bait stations. For more information, click here.

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