Mice plague pushing Australian farmers to limit

By Rocio Otoya

Sydney, May 13 (EFE).- An uncontrollable plague of mice, considered one of the worst in recent decades in Australia, has for weeks destroyed crops and pushed the country’s farmers to the limit after they suffered from devastating back-to-back fires, droughts and floods.

The mice appear everywhere: cupboards, ceilings and walls of houses. They also run around the beds, as farmers spend hours setting traps or cleaning the dead bodies of the animals, according to various videos and photos published on social media.

Farmers in rural New South Wales and neighboring Queensland, have to cope with the contamination of their animals’ food and the increase in infections of leptospirosis, an infectious disease transmitted through water mixed with the rats’ urine.

“It is an economic and health crisis. From the contamination of food and water by mice, to the diseases they spread, this pest is affecting more than crops, not to mention the stress it causes,” Danica Leys, executive director of the Association of Rural Women of the region said earlier this week.

To combat the plague, farmer must invest nearly more than $13,000 in rat poison to cover a 1,000 hectare area before starting to grow crops.

“In many areas, farmers are already in their third or fourth round of poison and costs are increasing with no solution in sight,” New South Wales Farmers Grain committee chair Mattew Madden said.

The rodent infestation has already forced 40 percent of farmers in New South Wales to reduce the area of ??their crops according to a recent industry survey, as mice can hamper all phases in the growth of crops such as cereals, as well as canola, lentils and other legumes.

They also affect grain and forage reserves to feed livestock, while the presence of rodent faeces in products for human consumption causes rejection from buyers.

To mitigate the crisis, the New South Wales government said Thursday that a package of about $39 million will be provided to affected areas, and offer poison and grain treatment free of charge.

The state government has also sought urgent approval from the regulatory body for the use of the powerful rat poison bromadiolone, a chemical Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said equates to using “napalm on mice,” according to local network ABC.

The house mouse, which can give birth to six to ten pups every 19 to 21 days, “is very well adapted to Australian conditions, and can survive long periods of drought and thrive when there is plenty of food and moisture,” according to Steve Henry, a government scientific agency expert told the Conversation magazine.

“When conditions are favorable for the production of crops, they are also favorable for the breeding of mice. And the mice reproduce with alarming speed,” he said.

The first record of a mouse infestation in Australia was recorded at the end of the 19th century, although, according to the government agency, the largest occurred in 1993, when the costs amounted to about $73 million. EFE


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