Shocking vision emerged from the mouse plague in New South Wales this year and, while the threat has plateaued in some areas, numbers are reportedly on the rise in parts of Victoria, southern NSW, southern Queensland and into South Australia.

Key points:

  • Australia’s mouse plague continues to affect crops, despite farmers spending months attempting to curb population growth
  • Farmers are being told to stay vigilant and not bet on winter stopping the mice outbreak
  • Rice growers in southern NSW are facing growing pressure from mice due to the inability to bait

Julian Cross has been battling the pests for months at his farm near Kumbia in Queensland and said a second wave of mice had emerged at Easter time.

“We’ve had a few in the past but never to this extent and it’s ongoing,” he said. 

“They just bar into the cobs and chew on the corn and on the mung beans — they nibble at the pods and the pod dies. 

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Norman Moeris’s Gilgandra property has been overrun by mice.(Supplied: Norman Moeris)

Winter change

As winter approaches, farmers like Mr Cross are hoping the colder weather will start putting a dent in the mice population.

“We’re hoping if we can clean the food source up a bit and get a good cold winter, that might steady their gallop,” he said. 

CSIRO researcher Steve Henry said farmers had to stay vigilant and should not rely on the weather to end the plague.

“Mice are digging quite extensive burrow networks out in paddocks and it’s pretty easy for them to get away from those nasty climatic conditions and continue to thrive if there’s plenty of food in the system.

“What will happen during the winter is that breeding will slow down … and mice go into self-preservation mode to get through winter so they’re still there in spring.”

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Farmers warned of ‘dodgy curry’ effect

Mr Henry recommends farmers work together when it comes to baiting programs, bait up to six weeks out from sowing a crop “and continue to monitor after that, and be prepared to bait mice as they sow”.

“So get out of the ute, go for a walk in the paddock,” he said.

A field with sandy soil and barley stubble, dotted with mouse holes.

Mice burrow underground to eat the seed during sowing.(

Supplied: Wayne Niejalke.

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Mr Henry said it was also important farmers ensure a gap between the initial baiting period.

“If mice get a sub-lethal dose they basically stop taking it straight away,” he said.

“One of my colleagues calls it ‘the dodgy-curry effect’.

Crops getting ‘hammered’

Agribusiness company Elders took to social media this week, asking farmers to name the biggest pest they have been dealing with this autumn — the answer was mice.

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Agronomist Mikaela Meers said while mice numbers had eased off in her region of Coonamble NSW, she was aware of crops “getting hammered” in southern regions such as Deniliquin and Hay.

“They’re getting into cotton crops and getting into rice paddies,” she said.

“They can only do perimeter baiting but it’s just not keeping them out.”

Ms Meers said growers in the region were pinning their hopes on cooler weather slowing the rodents down and taking “the pressure off”.

“But in saying that, the main concern is the amount of hay and straw we have under sheds,” she said.

“They’re breeding up in there and we’re just never going to kill the population.

Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landine at 12:30pm on Sunday, or on ABC iview.

Beware the ‘dodgy curry’ effect: Farmers warned as mice plague shows no signs of easing
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