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Posted: 10/23/2023
Mice on pile of grain

Prep Your Farm for a Harsh Season of Winter Rodent Control

Rodent control is a topic we touch on regularly here at PBS Animal Health. And with all the talk of a harsh winter in the months ahead, now is the time to prepare your facilities so they don’t become rodent refuges from the cold. Infestations can bring many unnecessary and costly challenges for farmers. Proactive measures like early and ongoing inspections, sanitation and more can make a big difference in protecting people and livestock during the winter.

Understanding Winter Rodent Behavior

Rodents seek shelter during the winter season because the temperature drops. If they seem to appear more abundantly than in warmer months, that’s because they have a more difficult time finding food outdoors and turn their efforts inside. As they continuously work to find food in winter, they also must outrun predators – if they can’t burrow in the ground or find ways and spaces to build nests outdoors, they find ways into the walls and crawl spaces of homes and livestock facilities. These venues are hospitable to mice and voles because they’re often much warmer than the outdoors, and if the rodents can find food inside, they’ll hide and find ways to stay there as long as they can.

Winter-Proofing Your Farm for Rodents

When it comes to winter-proofing, timing is everything. But don’t WAIT until winter. Look for vulnerabilities in your farm facilities and/or other property before the temps drop too much as that’s when the rodents want in. Now is the time to seal and repair damaged structural elements as needed. Do you have a broken gable vent or need to patch a screen door? Get to it. And check the roof while you’re at it – are there loose shingles or other entry points rodents might capitalize on?

One aspect that keeps farms especially vulnerable to rodents is the food storage. They’ll find your bulk feed and your food scraps if they're not in airtight containers or sealed trash bins. Keep food elevated when possible to make it more difficult for rodents to ransack, and clean any residue or spills when they occur.

Common Winter Rodent Pests on Farms

Farmers and livestock owners may encounter one or more of these common rodents:

  • Rats
  • House mice
  • Deer mice
  • Voles (field mice)
  • Gophers
These specific pests can vary slightly depending on your region, but regardless of the rodents you deal with, there are risks associated with every kind of infestation. Small rodents dig their way into buildings to create a nest – potentially chewing through wires and leaving holes in walls. Many contaminate livestock grains and feed with urine and feces when they trample through silos and other storage areas. Larger rats can cause structural damage on multiple levels of a farming structure thanks to their climbing ability. Pocket gophers tend to create underground tunnel systems that may wreak havoc in the pasture or with crop prosperity.

Preparing for Winter Rodent Control

Readying your property and preparing for the winter season means protecting yourself from rodent-caused facility repairs, both human and animal disease transmission, and many other losses. Thorough preparation does take some time, but it’s worth spending the time if you want to avoid spending money managing a major infestation. Experts recommend conducting pre-winter facility inspections to determine if your property has any potential rodent access/entry points. For example, rats and mice often run along connected electrical wires or nearby tree limbs to hop into chimney openings, vents and other roof-type gaps. They also might enter through ground-level windows or cracks. Be vigilant about seeking out and sealing these openings. Again, it takes time, but that’s time well spent in the long run. If you complete a proper inspection and prevent rodents from entering the facility in the first place, you’ll avoid extra expenses on bait and other control measures.

Winter-Specific Rodent Control Strategies

Developing a multifaceted approach that combines various strategies can give you a better chance of truly controlling rodents this winter. By integrating different tactics on your property that make it difficult for these creatures to find a way into buildings, locate food and build nests, you’ll create an inhospitable environment where they can’t thrive.

Yes, sealing entry points is a big part of the pest puzzle, but there’s more to it if you want to avoid infestations. Ongoing sanitation is imperative, as are traps and regular inspections. Look for signs of rodent residency early in the season so you have time to evict them before they add to the population. It can also be helpful to install cameras to monitor activity around the facility.

Manage your expectations, though, and be ready to face some challenges with these monitoring efforts. Know that rodents can enter small cracks and spaces that give them access to areas in the facility you may not be able to place cameras or even motion sensors. Also recognize that reproduction occurs year-round, and it’s likely that the animals are adding to the population at the same time you’re trying to decrease it. Rodents are usually more active in the overnight hours, which can also make it difficult to spot them. Their nests can be hidden well, too, often stocked with hoarded food and bedding so they can stay hidden.

Selection of top rodent control products

Selecting Effective Winter Rodent Control Products

The number of options available in terms of rodent control products is nearly as large as some of the rodent populations they’re made to combat. To start your selection process, check out these winter-prepping baits available at PBS Animal Health:

  • If you want a product specifically for agricultural buildings (in and around), try Just One Bite II. This rat and mouse bait gives rodents a lethal dose in just one feeding and is available in 1-pound bars that are scored for easy breakdown into 2-ounce pieces. It also comes in 2-ounce chunks with a center hole for bait station mounting.
  • Need a formula that outlasts both the cold and the heat? DeciMax Rat, Mouse and Meadow Vole Bait is a highly palatable indoor and outdoor bait that won’t get ruined in the rain. The all-weather formula is made with food-grade ingredients and comes in blocks, place packs (no-touch placement) and soft bait.

  • Another wet and dry placement product you might consider is Ramik Bars and Mini Bars. This rat and mouse bait resists mold and moisture. Get Mini Bars in a 4-lb bag or pail, or go for the 4-lb box of full-size bars.

  • For major infestations, turn to Jaguar Bait. Another all-weather formula, this mouse and meadow vole bait kills rodents in a single feeding! Try the 9 or 18-lb bait chunx pails, or the 8-lb pail of place pacs with ready to use pellets.

Strategies for Winter Baiting and Trapping

Weather-resistant bait (and traps) make a lot of sense during the winter months because they can stand up to falling temperatures and melting snow. Products that outlast cold and wet conditions not only offer strong value for producers by avoiding wasted bait, but they also remain tasty enough to attract the rodents whether they’re in search of food or not.

Use bait with traps placed in strategic locations where the rodents frequent: crawl spaces, behind appliances, in attics, etc. If you don’t want to kill the rodents, you can still stop them with other live traps or glue traps. Whether you choose live traps or go the lethal bait route, we want to stress the importance of ongoing monitoring and maintenance. In some states, you may be required by law to comply with regular monitoring and maintenance. Without any formal compliance, these efforts still offer peace of mind knowing your property is protected or that dead rodents are being disposed of when they’re found. Ongoing maintenance and monitoring also makes you more environmentally responsible as you can limit rodenticide use as needed and avoid harming other species.

Protect Your Animals, Equipment and Environment with PBS Animal Health

Prevention and persistence are the name of the game when it comes to rodent control. Take action before winter arrives and stay active throughout the cold months. Even if you find dead rodents, keep up with your plans to keep protecting your livestock and your livelihood. Shop all bait, traps and other pest control solutions right here from PBS Animal Health.

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