Livestock can be used as one of many practical tools to help control mouse populations on your property. Reducing food sources and habitat through effective grazing management in cropping and pasture paddocks can make it much harder for mice populations to rapidly increase.
Grazing stubble not only provides valuable nutrition for livestock, but by reducing stubble and removing spilt grain from paddocks, you are also removing food sources for mice and making environmental conditions less favourable for breeding.
While mice are generally seen in cropping paddocks, they can still be found in pasture, particularly over winter, where they have ample feed and habitat. As temperatures warm up, they can then move back into cropping paddocks.
Food and habitat can be managed in pasture to some extent, but it is important to make sure there is no negative effects on the land and your livestock.
Which paddocks to graze?
Firstly, you need to decide which paddocks are the highest priority. Paddocks bordering cropping paddocks (or hay and grain storage) should be considered a high priority. Have a look at the amount of cover from dry grass and the amount of annual pasture that is coming through. In some cases, the dry grass may be inhibiting annuals from germinating. Also look for seed and seed heads both on the ground and on standing grass.
Reducing food source
Feed source can be existing seed from summer species or potential seed from annual winter grasses. If your paddock has existing seed and seed heads you may look at grazing the paddock to reduce this seed.
Sheep will do a much better job of picking seed off the ground, but they will generally only pick up seed heads or larger seeds. Cattle may eat standing seed heads but will not graze seeds from the ground.
When looking to reduce mouse habitat we are looking to remove tall dry grass, which will reduce the ability of mice to shelter and forage for food safely. Tall dry grass will be poor feed quality and, in most cases, unsuitable for sheep. Cattle may be able to utilise the grass, but feed quality will not be high enough for growing stock.
If feed quality is not high enough, you should consider supplement feeding your livestock.
For more tips and advice, you can read ‘Managing mice in pastures to protect your crops in spring’ by Callen Thompson, Local Land Services Senior Land Services Officer – Mixed Farming.
For more information on grazing management, contact your local ag advisor.
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