Effective Pest Management Enhances Farm Productivity
Cambridge, UK – June 2017
Production losses on farms run to millions of UK£ per annum as a result of damage caused and diseases transmitted by rodent and insect pests.
Rodents destroy our food, spread disease and cause structural damage, whilst insect pests dramatically affect health and productivity on livestock farms, warned Dr. Kai Sievert, Syngenta Technical Services Manager for Pest Management and Vector Control.
Presenting his vision for ‘Tailoring Your Control for a Farming Environment’, at PestEx 2017, Kai added: “If this was not enough, both rodents and flies have the potential to breed rapidly when conditions are favourable, aggravating these problems.
“Control is, therefore, vital and eradication the objective,” he advised.
To improve productivity, and farm profitability, he urged both farmers and pest controllers to plan their strategy for effective pest management.
Kai highlighted that rodents’ destructive capabilities have led to some 10 – 25% of food being destroyed worldwide. “They are capable of transmitting some 26 different pathogens; DEFRA has confirmed that transmission by rodents is usually the most significant factor for Salmonella infection on farms.
“As well as damage to stored food, rodents’ constant need to gnaw causes significant structural damage to farm buildings and equipment. An estimated 50% of electrical short circuits on farms are caused by rodents chewing through cables.
“All of these issues are enhanced by the fact that rats and mice live in close proximity to us,” he added.
Kai emphasised that the key to effective rodent management lies in planning. Signs of damage should be recorded, access points to the site identified and movement about the site monitored. Clues on site, such as droppings, tracks, signs of burrowing all help the operator establish how rodents are exploiting the site.
“Tracking dusts and non-toxic diagnostic baits, such as the new Talon Track, will help fine tune the operator’s focus on these signs.
“All of this information should be recorded onto a site plan. Only when a clear picture of what is happening on site is available, can an effective control strategy be developed,” he advised.
Rodent IPM planning
Whilst the use of rodenticide is a key element of rodent control, products must be used responsibly, urged Kai. In order to meet the requirements of the CRRU rodenticide stewardship scheme, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme should always be applied. In the UK this entails habitat management and physical control techniques alongside, the application of chemicals.
“Likely food sources such as bins should be kept closed,” he advocated “Cover provided by vegetation must kept to a minimum by cutting back and a deterrent cordon sanitaire, such as gravel, maintained around farm buildings. On pig farms deep pits should be kept dry and holes blocked.” Physical methods of control, involving the use of traps, shooting and dogs, can be utilised where they are likely to prove effective.
Rodenticides used in the IPM plan should be applied with the objective of eradication as quickly as possible, advised Kai. Once achieved through the use of an effective product, the chemicals can then be removed from the environment, thus reducing the risk to non-target animals.
“All baits must be protected; if they are not placed directly into the rodents’ burrows, they should be contained in tamper resistant boxes or in some other way that will prevent non-target animals from accessing them.
Sufficient bait should be laid in boxes, every 3m – 5m, along walls. There is a limit to the amount of bait that can be applied at a bait station, specified on the product label. If the infestation is severe then a number of additional baits should be laid. All baits must be checked regularly to ensure that they are not left empty after rodents have fed from them. It is crucial that poisoned carcases are removed, to avoid secondary poisoning, he suggested.
The presence of dead rats, along with fewer droppings and tracks may indicate that the treatment is working, but the operator will know when the treatment has been successful when baits are no longer being taken, and can now be removed. The ongoing use of non-toxic Talon Track will also aid pest monitoring, without risk to non-target animals.
Kai emphasised the importance of training and competence when undertaking rodent control, and the need to comply with codes of best practice.
A wide range of insects are prevalent on farms, but it is flies that cause the greatest problems. Continuing his theme of tackling farm pests, Dr Kai Sievert listed houseflies, lesser house flies, stable flies, blowflies, fruit flies and horn flies, as capable of carrying and transmitting more than 65 different pathogens. Problems range from mastitis, to salmonellosis to AIV.
It has been estimated that the US cattle industry loses $2.2 billion per year as a result of animal infections transmitted by flies. In pig production, weight gain can be retarded by 10% as a result of fly borne infections, he pointed out.
“The use of antibiotics has been at the forefront of maintaining animal health for many decades but, with concerns over rising bacterial resistance to antibiotics, other methods are now being explored. Improvement in fly control in animal units is one of them,” he added.
The control hierarchy is very similar to that for rodent eradication, suggested Kai. “Habitat denial is at the forefront. Entry to animal units by flies should be excluded wherever possible using screens and mesh and by preventing access to breeding sites through rigorous hygiene.
“Physical and biological control methods follow in the sequence. Traps and lures help, whilst biological control, using predatory flies, parasitic wasps and entomopathogenic fungi, can prove effective.”
Chemical control methods offer a valuable solution to resolve outstanding problems. Insecticides can be presented using a combination of surface sprays, granular baits and larvicides to target different stages of the insect pest life-cycle.
Kai observed that surface sprays on walls may persist for up to six weeks providing control of adults, for example, but larvae would require a different insecticidal approach. Similarly, the adults of biting flies, such as the stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans, are only drawn to their host animals and not to granular baits.
“Understanding your target pest and its life-cycle is essential in devising an appropriate control strategy and insecticide use,” he added.
Kai reported insecticide products are formulated from three chemical groups, pyrethroids, organophosphates and neonicitinoids. Of these, insecticide spray products are formulated from all three groups, whilst granule products are formulated only from the latter two of these groups. Larvicides can be formulated into both spray and granular products. To avoid the build-up of resistance, he recommended regular rotation of actives between insecticide groups used in the control programme.
In summing up, Kai stressed the importance of effective hygiene around farms, which would help achieve an effective IPM solution. “Improve hygiene, implement an effective pest control strategy, and you will improve productivity.”
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