Growing numbers of mice are spreading across Western Australia’s grain belt, damaging valuable crops that have been forecast to produce a record harvest this season.

Key points:

  • Damage from mice is being reported across 400 kilometres of the West Australian grain belt
  • Farmers are spending thousands of dollars baiting mice from the air
  • However, there is up to a four-week delay for delivery of mouse baits 

Damage by rodents has been reported across a 400-kilometre stretch from Ajana on the northern tip of the grain belt to Dalwallinu in the central Wheatbelt. 

Grains Industry Association of WA crop report author Michael Lamond said that, as the weather warmed up, he expected mice to spread further south, covering the entire grain belt. 

“Mice are shaping up to be a problem,” Mr Lamond said. 

Canola seed pods eaten by pest mice

Mice climb up canola plants and chew the pods to get to the seeds inside. (

Supplied: Peter Elliott Lockhart

)

While not at the levels being seen in the eastern states, Mr Lamond said mice could eat through some of what had been predicted to be a bumper, 20-million-tonne harvest in Western Australia. 

He said mice also posed a serious challenge for storing grain on farms during harvest time. 

Long wait for baits

Growers eager to bait have been restricted by a four-week wait for supplies, boggy paddocks and a shortage of aviation companies to spread baits from the air. 

Lupin pods eaten by mice.

Lupins stalks with pods completely consumed by mice. (

Supplied: Peter Elliott Lockhart

)

For the first time, Marchagee farmer Michael O’Callaghan will bait his property in a bid to stop mice eating the forming canola pods. 

With the chew cards used to identify the presence of mice on his Wheatbelt property completely consumed, Mr O’Callaghan chose to spend money spreading baits from the air. 

“Every decision is hard when you are spending a lot of money, so it is not easy, and I don’t want to do it, but I think it is the right decision,” he said.

A middle-aged man stands in a tall canola crop. He is wearing an orange hi-vis shirt and dark cap.

For the first time in his farming career, Michael O’Callaghan will drop mice baits on his Marchagee property in a bid to save his canola crop from mouse damage. (

ABC Mid West & Wheatbelt: Lucinda Jose

)

Harvest time providing more mouse feed

Elders agronomist Peter Elliot Lockhart said mouse numbers would continue building over the next few months during harvest time. 

“There will probably be a bit of grain coming out the back of machines. There will be a bit of grain spilt around the place,” he said.   

“We don’t have as much water available, so … they are not going to get that bad, but I suspect they will still be a problem for next season.”

Posted , updated 

Mice damaging bumper Wheatbelt crops
Source:
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