Mice in hay

What's the risk?

When mice levels are high, producers should be mindful that stored hay, or the hay you are buying in, could have some level of contamination from mice.

It is important producers consider their options before using or purchasing potentially contaminated hay, as it can carry risks, such as:

  • Livestock avoiding hay due to smell
  • Leptospirosis in cattle
  • Botulism in livestock.

Assessing damage

Monitoring is key when identifying the impact of mice on hay bales. Where possible, open them up and examine from various positions or sections of the haystack or shed. An assessment of the damage can be made by identifying the number and depth of mice holes and the amount of carcasses, urine of feces found.

For low levels of damage, it may be possible to remove damaged sections, and destroy them separately. However, this would only reduce your risk, not fully remove the possibility of the fodder source continuing to be contaminated.

When inspecting bales, it is important to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and implement good hygiene practices. Mice damaged also pose a hazard because they can collapse.

What to do with mice damaged hay

Mice contaminated hay can be managed through burning, burying or spreading. When deciding which option is most appropriate, you should consider the quantity needing to be disposed, cost and local weather conditions.

Burning

Burning contaminated hay bales, in an isolated and open area, can be a cost-effective means of disposal. This practice requires minimal input but can be quite time-consuming if dealing with large quantities of hay and conditions are not conducive.

If employing this practice, be sure to comply with all NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) requirements and implement appropriate strategies to mitigate the risk, such as firebreaks and access to water carts.

Burying

Burying contaminated hay in carefully chosen sites can be a suitable option for large amounts of hay, but cost and availability of machinery should be considered.

Pit locations should avoid sites prone to accumulating water or near water ways. Pits need to be deep enough to apply a minimum of a foot of soil between the additive height of the bales and the original soil surface. Excess soil must then be placed on top to compensate for future sinking of the pit.

Unlike other pits, these will not require lining, but will still require livestock to be restricted access from the site.

Spreading

Hay may be spread back onto paddocks. Spreading contaminated hay across a paddock with rakes can put nutrients, bound in the organic matter, back into the soil through decomposition. This will take a significant time to occur but may provide some benefit out of hay that can carry risks to livestock.

More information

For more tips and advice, you can read ‘What to do with mice damaged hay ’ by Tim Bartimote, Local Land Services Cropping Adviser.

For more information on managing mice impacted hay, contact your local vet or agricultural advisor.

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