Giant Mice Plague Forces Australia to Turn to Banned Poison
(Bloomberg) -- Australia is looking to deploy normally outlawed high-grade poison to fight millions of mice, as farmers struggle to protect their crops from the worst rodent invasion in decades.
Stomach-churning footage on social media showed carpets of mice scurrying across barn floors, crowded around machinery, and entering thick grain silos made of steel. There’s even been reports of farmers’ feet being bitten while they sleep.
A viral video showed a giant vacuum sucking up the mice from storage containers, but methods to treat the intrusion have so far offered little respite for farmers.
The crisis has prompted the New South Wales government to release A$50 million ($39 million) in funding to tackle the infestation it calls an economic and public health crisis. The state is asking the federal government for approval to use Bromadiolone, a potent pesticide that’s normally banned in the country.
“It’s actually the strongest mouse poison we can get anywhere on the face of the earth that actually will kill these things within 24 hours,” said Adam Marshall, the state’s agriculture minister.
Mouse numbers across the state have exploded after a bumper crop last season, which followed plentiful rains that broke a years-long drought. Though good news for farmers who endured years of disappointing crop yields, the sharp increase in grain volumes has provided more food for the pests.
The infestation that’s spreading quickly across New South Wales and Queensland state is causing havoc to crop yields and contaminating sorghum exports with animal droppings, causing quality downgrades and leading to canceled shipments of the grain.
“From an export perspective, there’s zero to no tolerance on mouse poo,” said Nick Carracher, chief executive of Lachstock Consulting, an agricultural service and advice provider based in Victoria. “It’s very difficult to clean -- virtually impossible.”
Contamination issues aside, there’s likely to be further fallout as farmers head into the next planting season for winter crops like wheat and barley. While Australia is predicted to see another fairly favorable harvest this season, the plague could dent those forecasts.
Mice, which are partial to newly sown seeds, are likely to feast upon the upcoming crop before it even gets to germination stage.
“Freshly sown crops are going to have lower germination because there’s bloody mice everywhere!” Carracher said. “That’s definitely a genuine threat in those areas.”
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