As the worst mice plague in decades continues to ravage farms across NSW and southern Queensland, large numbers of mice are travelling south and making their way into Victoria.
Don Hearn owns a beef cattle farm and vineyard just east of Barham, in NSW near the Victorian border.
He said over the past three to four weeks, mice numbers had increased on his property and were causing damage.
“They’re up in the roof every night, in the cars and all the machinery,” Mr Hearn said.
“It’s certainly not as bad as a little further north, but with most plagues, they start in the north and work their way south.”
In northern NSWs, pest populations had been ruining crops, stripping supermarket shelves of food and even biting hospital patients.
NSW Health confirmed hospital patients were bitten in Tottenham, Walgett and Gulargambone.
Baiting to control numbers
“All we can do is start putting baits up in the ceiling, and do a lot of manual baiting around the outside of the house and sheds to try and control the numbers,” Mr Hearn said.
“Our neighbours have some rice crops in and they’re about to be harvested, so the water will be drained, and once the water comes off, there’s really nothing protecting those crops.
“One positive is the rain and the cold wind does usually takes care of them when they’re in plague numbers.”
Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Ashley Fraser lives in Rutherglen in northern Victoria, and has heard reports of mice on farms.
“If you drew a line across the state from Echuca, anything north of that line has seen some impact,” Mr Fraser said.
“I’m situated in the north east, and we’ve certainly noticed increased numbers in the paddocks, but not enough to have a real impact.
“It’s certainly a watch and act, everyone I know is making sure they’ve got enough bait in stock ready to combat if they decide to multiply quickly.”
He said the floods in NSW and cooler temperatures may drive down mice numbers.
“The rain can flood a lot of the holes in the paddock, but it could drive them inside and into hay sheds, looking for a bit of cover,” he said.
In a statement, Agriculture Victoria said it was aware of increased mice populations in some parts of the state, but believed it was not widespread.
“If there are any farmers that are concerned about any local increases in mice numbers, there are commercial baits available,” Natural Disasters and Emergencies north east manager Banjo Patterson said.
“Mice can damage newly-sown crops by eating the sown grain. They can cause some damage around harvest.”
Mice on a NSW farm
Populations worsen in NSW
Deniliquin agronomist Adam Dellwo said mice numbers in the southern Riverina had been building since Christmas and were still a problem for growers.
“They are becoming more and more widespread, we are certainly not dealing with the plagues and the big numbers the growers in the north are, but people have certainly started baiting around here,” Mr Dellwo said.
He said growers were baiting in summer crops including rice, corn and cotton.
“People are being very vigilant as numbers are building in paddocks, they are venturing into offices, houses and everywhere else,” Mr Dellwo said.
He said mice were the major concern plaguing growers currently – who have both winter sowing and summer harvest looming.
“We are concerned what this means for establishing winter crops which will be sown soon, and no more damage in summer crops would be nice too.”