Growers around Australia have been forced to deal with worsening mice plague conditions and with mice numbers growing in the Wimmera, Stawell farmers have been told to stay on high alert.
Large rainfall throughout much of the country, including in inland Queensland, inland New South Wales and Victoria's Wimmera has helped create great growing conditions.
However, it has also helped lay the foundations for a potential boom of mice populations around Wimmera farms.
Tyler's Rural agronomist Ash DeClifford said he has been working with farmers to help them make early steps to cut down mice populations.
"Given that we have had such a favourable year last year, with high grain yields there is obviously quite a large food source for them," he said.
"Over summer they can breed exponentially when there is a huge food source for them.
"There is generally always a low-level population, but when we get these big seasons, into the next summer and autumn we will get a big increase in mice numbers.
"We are expecting to see quite a few numbers in the cropping when it comes to sowing time in the autumn, but at the moment they are just ticking over and there is probably nothing out of the norm with the levels I seen."
Mr DeClifford said the threat of mice plagues is a reoccurring one, meaning many farmers in the Wimmera are putting practises in place stop population growth before it's too late.
"They are certainly building, but they are not at plague levels yet like it is in parts of southern New South Wales and southern Queensland," he said.
"Baiting is all you can really do in terms of controlling populations.
"The only way to bring a plague back down is by dwindling their food source down to nothing and then the mice will, in the latter stages of a plague, actually die from diseases and quite often they will revert to cannibalism too.
"Most growers are aware of what mice can do so they are very proactive, but through baiting and monitoring we are confident we will be able to keep them at bay at this stage."
CSIRO lead mouse researcher Steve Henry said it was important for farmers to prepare and bait-effectively to best manage mice populations.
"If mice are hungry, they are more likely to eat a lethal dose. You get a much better result if the rate of bait encounter is increased by having less residual food in paddocks, and the likelihood of bait aversion through ingestion of a sub-lethal dose is reduced," he said.
Mr Henry said baiting six weeks out from sowing was advisable if mouse numbers were currently high. This allowed mice to overcome any sub-lethal ingestion and bait aversion before baiting at sowing time.
"If you still have mice at sowing, put the bait out off the back of the seeder. You will get the primary bang for your buck baiting at sowing, especially if the bait goes on freshly disturbed soil after the last presswheel."
Mr Henry said close monitoring after each bait application was critical, and it was important that growers actively and thoroughly monitored their paddocks for mice.
"Go for a walk through your stubbles and look for signs of activity. And be prepared to bait - talk to your bait suppliers early."
Mr Henry also said farmers should look to:
- Put mouse bait out before other pest/nutrient treatments.
- Do not mix mouse bait with snail/slug bait
- Burning stubbles is unlikely to impact on mouse populations but it may improve results with baiting (due to less food competition);
- Bait on the ground is more likely to be taken before mice climb plants to eat developing seed heads of sorghum crops;
- Do not bait ahead of a significant forecast rain event;
- Co-ordinate baiting strategies with your neighbours for area-wide management and highest impact.
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