Arable News

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DIY baiting boxes are best

Plastic bait boxes can be such a barrier to rodenticide uptake

Plastic bait boxes can be such a barrier to rodenticide uptake by rural rats that farms wishing to achieve the rapid and effective control they need are being strongly advised to use their own DIY skills to adequately safeguard pets and other animals during baiting. They might look ‘the business’ to farm assurance auditors, but tamper-resistant rat boxes that may work in urban pest control aren’t what’s needed on most farms, according to BASF Pest Control Solutions’ rodent control specialist, Sharon Hughes.This has been clearly demonstrated by recent, carefully-controlled University of Reading trials undertaken for the Rodenticide Working Group on three farms in the Welsh borders, she pointed out. Here, rats consumed approximately eight times more bait from wooden trays protected from non-target animals with naturally available materials than they did from each of three separate bait box designs.With her understanding of rat behaviour, Sharon finds this difference in no way surprising, pointing out that black plastic boxes stick out like sore thumbs on most farms even to rats with their limited visual capacity. More importantly, they feel and smell alien. And in many cases they’re the wrong size and design too.”Rats’ finely-honed survival instincts are based on a huge wariness of new things,” she explained. “We call this neophobia. This makes them reluctant to enter confined spaces with which they aren’t familiar and even more reluctant to feed in them,” she commented.”They are more at ease in warm surroundings they’re accustomed to. They prefer to eat sitting on their haunches so they can be alert to any threats around them. They don’t like going into places from which they can’t see at least one rapid way out, especially if it involves twists and turns. And, wherever possible, they feed in groups for safety in numbers.“So it isn’t surprising that bait consumption by farm rats from cold, shiny plastic boxes with at least one right angle turn, most of which aren’t big enough to accommodate much more than one individual at a time, and are too low to allow sitting-up, is so restricted.”This major barrier to rat control can best be overcome in Sharon’s experience by using familiar, readily-available farmyard materials like corrugated iron, wooden sheeting, pallets, slates, tiles, bricks, blocks or old tyres to build simple bait stations that can be as secure in farm use as most tamper-resistant boxes.Such materials ensure rats are as comfortable as they can be in the acute vulnerability they always feel while feeding. This, in turn, means they consume the rodenticide bait in preference to the many other sources of feed available to them on most farms.Safeguarding wildlifeThe key requirement in safeguarding wildlife, she pointed out, is for the bait to be covered and protected. Tamper-resistance really isn’t necessary where there is no public access. But robust construction and small enough entry points are important to deny access to dogs, in particular.”Sturdy wooden trays around 6x3in with good sides make for the best bait containers,” she suggested. “The easiest thing is to place them securely beneath immovable objects with an entrance clearance of about 3in and internal height of 6-8in where possible.”It’s important bait points are close to rat burrows or on well-frequented rat runs – more often than not along the outside edges of buildings – which won’t always be where such objects are. So, at least some simply constructed covers are likely to be needed.”Wooden or corrugated iron sheets propped up at a shallow angle against walls and weighted down with bricks are ideal. Pallets raised up on bricks, blocks or old fence posts and securely covered with sheeting will do a good job too. As will loose stacks of bricks or blocks roofed with odd tiles or slates.”Alternatively, wooden-covered car tyres laid flat on bricks provide their own internal troughs for baiting and will be all too familiar to rats anywhere near silage clamps. Up-turned boxes or cut open silage or feed additive containers, again resting on bricks, blocks or wood for access and well-weighted down also make good stations for bait trays,” she advised.”It’s really a matter of seeing what you have to hand and putting it to use to give the right amount of bait covering and protection,” she concluded. “Follow these simple guidelines, making sure you use more than enough bait points wherever you can detect tell-tale signs of rat activity and you will have far greater success than ever you will with any black plastic box.”


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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