How to keep rodents away from your farm without using poison
Research has shown that rodents (rats, mice and gerbils) steal almost a quarter of all stored and standing grain. Although grain is their favourite food, they can eat anything organic from animal or plant.
For successful IPM in rat control, one has to understand the rat and its behaviour and also the different control methods that include and not limited to physical, biological and chemical control activities.
Rats and mice are confused as the same animal more often than not and although they come from the rodent order, they are morphologically different with the mouse being smaller in size.
However, both have a high birth rate and can produce between 5 and 20 offsprings in as many as 15 times in year. They also have an agile body and they can climb and even run on vertical surfaces.
They have one pair of incisor teeth on each jaw which they use to gnaw at objects. The rodents can shred paper, poke holes in piles of clothes and transform valuables into garbage.
The presence of the rodents can be recognised through faecal materials, tracks, burrows, gnawing activity, and rat sounds. The later have sometimes been described as laughter especially when there is plenty of food.
Rat-proof construction should be implemented not only for the farm house but also all other farm structures where edible materials are likely to be stored.
Foundations of such buildings should extend to a depth of at least 3ft below the ground level with a concrete pavement of 3-4 feet wide (rats prefer ducking in instead of running on exposed surfaces).
An alternative to a strong foundation is a raised floor for stores and animal houses such as sheep, chicken and calves that are likely to have full feed troughs most of the time.
The poles that raise the floor should have an inverted metal cup structure at their apex, which forms the base of the house. These cups form blind corners that the rats can’t go around.
Outdoors, garbage should be kept in closed containers; the concrete pavement around the house should be kept clean; nearby hiding places like bushes, immobile vehicles and piles of wood, sacks and other trash should be removed.
Indoors, edible items such as animal feeds should be kept in sealed metal containers and if in sacks, they should be placed on racks above the ground level and a few feet away from walls.
Snap traps, glue boards and other methods of catching the rodents are available. However, some have ethical concerns that include trapping of the animals and keeping them in the traps until they die of starvation like in the case of rarely inspected glue boards.
Like the rat, the cat has an agile body and can climb and run on surfaces making it lethal for the rats. Unlike the rat which has poor vision, the cat can see even in the dark and it also has an acute sense of smell and sharp ears.
Non-target animals like dogs and cats which can accidentally feed on dead rats are not at risk of dying unless a big number is consumed at once or in combination with the bait. Vitamin K is the antidote for anticoagulants.
These include chemicals like Zinc phosphide that kill within a few hours and this might make some rats not to eat them as they comprehend that their colleagues are dying.