MICE. They’re small, fluffy and generally harmless, right? Wrong. In the eyes of many agricultural commentators across south-eastern Australia these rodents have the potential to cause just as much damage as locusts did last year, yet there has been just a fraction of the publicity.
Much of this is a perception thing – there is something innately worrying about a swarm of insects that can devour a crop overnight, and there is no doubt mice damage is more subtle, but farmers need to come out and highlight just how big a deal this mouse plague is.
The response to the locust plague last year was a triumph of co-operation, between the public and private sectors, between states and throughout the general community.
Compare this with what is happening with the current mice plague, where the strain is falling on one beleaguered rodenticide manufacturer to keep up with overwhelming demand.
Rest assured, the blame can’t sit with Animal Control Technologies, who are a commercial business and can’t be caught with a stack of product they can’t move.
There has to be some acknowledgement from the relevant government authorities such as the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) that a short-term solution has to be found.
Proposals such as upcountry baiting stations, where farmers can bring grain to be treated, are a possibility.
What needs to be knocked on the head is the current unfortunate practice of farmers using off-label concoctions to bait mice.
While we can understand the desperation when there is no bait available, there can be no condoning of using off-label products to treat mice. The products may be effective on mice, but farmers have to realise when using pesticides that there is an entire eco-system to consider. Reports of dead birds are not a good look for a farming industry already fighting an uphill battle on the perception of chemical use.
We urge all interested parties to make it a matter of urgency to ensure a swift and effective response is implemented.
We’ve seen what can be achieved with the locust control effort, it is now just a matter of doing the same thing with mice.