‘Everywhere’s bad’: Farmers eye long campaign against mouse plague06/07/2021
Farmers across inland NSW are bracing for a long battle against the mouse plague with any lull during winter expected to be reversed once spring brings renewed food supplies as crops ripen.
Jason McCutcheon, a fourth-generation wheat and cattle farmer from Trangie, in the state’s north-west, said swarms of mice began appearing in February before heavy rains “drowned a heap of them”.
“There were absolutely horrendous,” Mr McCutcheon told the Herald. “Everywhere’s bad here, as far as the eye can see.”
While numbers of the rodents have eased lately, he has had no choice but to lay fresh bait around his shed where he keeps grain for his cattle, and make regular baitings at $5000 each time across his 1000-hectare property.
“They’re still doing lots of damage,” Mr McCutcheon said. “You might kill all the mice on your farm but if your next-door neighbour isn’t doing the same, they will just come through your fence.”
While a good frost will help keep them down, the mice are expected to return with renewed menace come the spring when ripening crops provide new food sources. “I’ve got all my mice bait ready to go,” he said.
Mr McCutcheon shared the concerns of NSW Farmers about the government’s plans to begin distribution of 10,000 litres of the potent poison bromadiolone if it gets the nod from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
While he might consider using bromadiolone if it is cheaper than the zinc phosphide now in use, the restricted bait “would do more damage to more animals, including birds”.
The pesticides authority is still to decide whether to permit the poison’s use, although even then it might only be approved along property perimeters, limiting its effectiveness since many mice have already set up within farms.
In the meantime, Mr McCutcheon and his neighbours are dealing with the gruesome task of disposing of thousands of dead, stinking mouse corpses, which fill their homes with an ongoing stench.
“We’ve also lost two air-conditioners, one washing machine, a toaster and a kettle” as mice have chewed into their wiring, he said. “The insurance doesn’t cover the rodents, unfortunately.”
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