Farmers – The Never-ending Battle Against Rodents

Pest control experts are warning farmers against taking a DIY-approach to rodent control.
Farmers have traditionally conducted rodent treatments themselves, but controlling these pests is becoming increasingly difficult and complex.

The UK’s biggest trade association for pest controllers, the NPTA points out that the legal requirements affecting using rodenticides are currently being changed and resistance to current products is growing throughout the country. This leaves farmers in a very vulnerable position.

For example:

• With changes due in the labelling of rodenticides, anyone involved with rodent control will need to be aware of new requirements.

• Resistance in both rats and mice to anticoagulant baits is growing rapidly throughout the country.

• There are some parts of the UK where it is now virtually impossible to control rats with poisons, requiring alternative methods to be used.

• All ‘professional users’ need to keep up with the rapidly-changing biological and legislative environment.

• Professional pest controllers are often not as expensive as farmers think and will get the job done safely, efficiently and effectively, leaving farmers to concentrate on their businesses.

The NPTA have produced the following advice for farmers:

The Never-Ending Battle Against Rodents

Whether you like it or not, every farmer has to invest time and money in keeping their properties as free from rodents as possible. It is a never-ending battle and a never-ending drain on resources. But failure to keep up the fight will inevitably mean the destruction of produce, property and profits.

One of the first decisions to make is whether to use the services of a specialist pest controller or to Do-it-Yourself. In times of economic strain, the second option is superficially very attractive, as it appears to be the cheaper option. However, there is a great deal more to rodent control than just throwing a bit of bait about and getting it wrong could be very costly.

The key to effective rodent control, if you are going to do it yourself, is to be properly trained. Whilst this is a concept that is well accepted with the application of plant protection pesticides, sadly the same is not true when applying rodenticides. To be regarded as a ‘professional user’ of rodenticides all that is required is that you use these products in the course of your work and that you have “received appropriate information, instruction and training”. Our experience is that many so-called ‘Professional Users’, where rodent control is a peripheral part of their work, are very poorly trained.

In the Legislation there is no indication of what is ‘appropriate’, nor is there a suggestion of what is an acceptable standard. There is no requirement for ‘continuous professional development’ (CPD) to show that you have kept up with the rapidly–changing environment, both legal and biological, affecting rodent control, unlike other areas of pesticide use. The result is a lot of very ineffective and potentially dangerous rodent control work being carried, with the environment suffering as a result.

If you have not received proper training in rodent control, you will have no idea about the implications behind the phrases that appear on the product labels and are therefore more likely to make mistakes in treatment. That might lead to poor levels of control, but also to possible prosecution.

The mainstay of rodent control is the use of anti-coagulant rodenticides and these were almost banned recently throughout the EU as the full risks that they pose to the environment have become better understood. It was only because there are no viable alternatives at present that they were, grudgingly, allowed to continue to be used, but it was a very close run thing. They are very much under review as a result.

If any bird of prey, or indeed any animal, is found dead with no apparent injuries and poisoning is suspected, a ‘Wildlife Incident Investigation’ is quite likely to be started, which could involve a visit to any properties nearby where rodenticides are being used. If they find that you have not been using them properly, you could be charged, as one pest controller found to his cost not long ago. Where you bait, how much you use, how long you leave it in place and even how well you document its use will all be scrutinised and if found wanting, you might end up in Court for ‘failing to take all reasonable precautions’ to prevent damage to the environment.

The product labels will be changing significantly over the next few years and as a professional user, you will need to be aware of these changes. Where will you get this information, particularly with regard to the significance of each change?

Resistance, in both rats and mice, to many of the most commonly-used products, is also growing rapidly, with large areas of the country almost complete ‘no-go’ areas for rodenticide use. Would you know where these areas are, or how to get your rats tested to see if they are resistant? Would you know what your options for rodent control are then?

In some of the worst-affected areas, pest controllers are having to turn back to more traditional methods, such as traps, snares and using specially-trained dogs. Do you have those skills?

In short, rodent control, which was for years simply a question of putting bait around the place, is rapidly becoming a much more fraught and complex issue. It may now be the time for getting professional expertise on board to help you. Why not focus your time and effort on doing what you do best and getting a professional pest controller in to do what they do best?

The question now is how do you choose an appropriate professional?
The National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) has the largest number of independent Members throughout the country. Membership requires that technicians are properly trained and insured.

An elite part of the Membership, the ‘Accredited Members’ are also audited regularly to make sure they are working to Industry Best Practices.

Having a professional, with a local reputation to maintain, that you can rely on to help you in this increasingly complex issue, could well turn out to be the most cost-effective approach to the problem of rodent control on your farm.

The National Pest Technicians Association can be contacted at tel. no: 01773 717 716; e-mail: office@npta.org.uk; web site: www.npta.org.uk

Posted in Rodents

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