Rodent Control for Agriculture: Rats in Feed and Hay Have Major Impacts For Profits and Food Distribution

David Bennett David Bennett


In this article, we will review the US agricultural industry, and the huge impact rodents, if they are not controlled, has on it. According to, “Over one billion people worldwide work in agriculture generating $2.4 trillion for the global economy. Plant science innovations are vital to keep crops healthy and maintain this thriving economy. “Further,the website shows that world agriculture provides jobs 1.3 billion which represents 19% of the world’s population. The Illinois Department of Public Health Prevention and Control states that “rodents (rats and mice) annually consume and contaminate about 20% of the world’s food supply. Contamination is a serious issue because rats and mice spread about 35 diseases communicable to humans. Without pest control, half our food might be destroyed by crop and stored product pests (hay, grain silos, corncribs, etc).”  Besides destroying crops, rats also do thousands of dollars to damage to farm property, through gnawing—which is a suspected cause of fires in farm buildings and farmhouses, to chewing electrical insulation off of farm machinery and farm autos.  Farnam, a supplier of animal feed, supplements and other products to farmers agrees with what we’ve just outlined: “Rats and mice will eat feed and contaminate it with urine and feces even more

than they consume it. Chewing on wiring (which they do to wear down their continually growing front teeth) can lead to expensive equipment repairs and may be a fire hazard (damaged wire can cause a short). In addition, rodent droppings contain bacteria that carry disease, and rodents also hosts fleas, ticks and mites associated with a number of diseases: salmonella, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsialpox, murine typhus, hantavirus, sin agua virus, Lyme disease, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, etc. In some cases, a disease can cycle through the rodent population and then affect dogs, horses and humans in the area.   Unfortunately, if you don’t control rodents in the barn, they’re likely to end up invading nearby structures — including your house.”


Pest tolerance on crop land is usually based on the cost of control.  Rodent infestations directly impact food distribution from the United States to all over the world, and while Integrated Pest Management is used by many US farmers, it is not standardized across the industry, so rodents prosper in some places, and are well-controlled in others. 

What is a Farm?

 The USDA defines a farm as any establishment which produced and sold, or would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the year. According to Michigan State University, “given that definition, the 2007 census indicates that Michigan alone had 56,014 farms with an average farm size of 179 acres. (One acre equates to a little less than a 100 yard long American football field).   The USDA defines a family farm as “any farm organized as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or family corporation. Family farms exclude farms organized nonfamily corporations or cooperatives, as well as farms with hired managers,” according to the USDA Economic Research Service 2007 Family Farm Report.Financially, the USDA classifies a small farm as worth less than $250,000.00, large as worth between $250,000 and $500,000, and very large as worth more than $500,000.  

Overview of the US Agricultural Industry

The United States produces a stunning amount of jobs and food for the world.  According to Statista, in the United States alone, over 925,000 are employed in the agricultural industry, and the United States has over 2 million farms, with an average farm size of 444 acres. Small family farms

make up 96 percent of the farms in America.  Over 38% of US farms are operated by full owners.  18% of US farmers are operators who farm all of the land they own.  Another 6% farm part of their land and lease part to other farmers. The remaining 1.3 million owners or 44 percent only rent land to other farmers; they do not operate farms on it. People, not corporations, own most farmland. The leading US state by number of employees involved in specialized feedstock and chemicals is Illinois, with 82 establishments operating in this specialization alone.   

The US Import/Export Industry Is Among the Top in the World

The total value of US agricultural exports is over $144 billion from 2000-2017, with the value of US exports to Mexico comprising 18.1 billion dollars from 2000 to 2017. The total value of US agricultural imports from 2012-2018 equaled 121.5 billion dollars. The value of US agricultural imports from the EU are $21.37 billion from 1990 to 2017.  

Enter The Rat: Cutting Into Your Profits and the World’s Stomachs Millions at a Time

As you can imagine, controlling rodent pests on farms is quite a challenging endeavor.  One problem is that rodents eat selectively, so a farmer might not notice a lot of crop loss in many different places.   However, if acreage is examined carefully, trouble spots can be found, and then damage to crops collectively calculated.

  Victor Pest Control gives some alarming statisticsas to how much damage rodents do to crops in just ONE state:

“In California, for instance, agriculture is an economic cornerstone of the state, which distributes much of its products throughout the rest of the nation. Growing $39 billion in annual crops, California leads the nation’s agricultural sector. The state is the lone supplier of everything from almonds and walnuts to figs, olives, and artichokes. Additionally, California is a leading supplier of avocados, tomatoes, grapes, and various other fruits and vegetables. 

However, the state has long had a problem with crop destruction caused by pests, including squirrels and even blackbirds.” Combating this problem has been a costly process for growers, but they’ve managed to reduce infestations with the employment of pesticides, fences, and traps.

In 2009, a study was conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture—in partnership with the National Wildlife Research Center—on the annual effects of rodents on 22 agricultural commodities across 10 counties throughout the state. The study produced the following findings:

  • $168 million to $504 million in estimated loss of revenue
  • 2,100 to 6,300 jobs lost

In Monterey County, California, crop damage caused by rodent infestation was responsible for between $44 million and $128 million in annual revenue loss, as well as 515 to 1,514 jobs.”

As you can see, ecologically sound rodent control practices can help control the losses of crops (and profits) to farmers, but help keep down food prices for the general population.  And now the question that has farmers talking all over the Internet:

How do I keep rats and mice out of my hay and grain silos?

Keeping mice and rats out of hay, corn and grain feed is a huge issue in American farming, as well as farming around the world. In the case of farms, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Across the internet, farmers counsel one another about the benefits of natural predation—i.e., the barn cat.  However, you have to make sure the cat is hungry so it goes after the

rats and mice—which means you don’t feed the cats.   Moreover, even cats have predators—like coyotes.    So what’s next?   Bait stations with pesticides are problematic, because animals eat the hay and grain, and you don’t want to poison your cows, pigs, or sheep.  You can’t put those IN your hay bales anyway. In the case of hay bales, since mice and rats can

chew through the thinner 250 tensile twine, the thicker the twine or baling cord, the less rats are interested in chewing (it’s a lot of work to chew!)  Some farmers like to use wire tie balers, even though wire tie balers are harder to get these days.  (Lucky you if Grandpa has left you a wire tie baler!) So in lieu of cats and wire balers, what’s a farmer to do?

Prevention, prevention, prevention

You can’t control the weather, which is directly tied to rat reproduction—but you CAN control the rats.  And how you do this is by making sure your farm is neat, clean and orderly.   Keep all pet food indoors.  Use compost bins rather than simply piling it in the backyard.   Clean up dog waste outside whenever you encounter it.   Eliminate excess weeds in-crop, garbage, piles of junk, burning fields after harvest to kill or displace rodents, which is used regularly in sugar cane production.  Check for holes and other potential entry points for rats in barns, grain and hay storage buildings and dairy buildings. Stack hay neatly, in buildings that have been inspected and any rat entry issues fixed, using thicker baling twine or plastic baling ties.   If you don’t like the idea of plastic waste (there’s enough plastic waste in the world after all), threshing the grain out of the straw before baling it makes a world of difference.   Wondrous Acres Homestead advises the following:

“Mice and rats will get into hay to forage for food, keep warm, and build nests for their young.

If hay becomes infested with mice and rats, it could be rendered useless as animal feed. [this costs you, the farmer much more money and you lose profits].

Rodents can spread disease to the animals on the farm, so their numbers must be kept in check.”

Perform a barn inspection monthly to check for new nests, high traffic paths used by rodents, and new entry points.” Store firewood and lumber 9-12” off the ground and at least 9” away from walls.   Leave about three feet of space between hay bales and do not keep them for more than one year.

We recommend Integrated Pest Control Management practices.  In short, IPM practices involve assessing the infestation, coming up with an action plan, monitoring the effectiveness of the action plan, and making adjustments to increase rodent eradication effectiveness, doing regular inspections of your farm, and crop fields to asses problem areas of rodent infestations so that you can implement measures to control rat populations most effectively.  You will never completely eradicate rats; but with IPM practices which advocate using a variety of control measures including the use of snap traps in your pest management plan which may include bait stations, GPS monitoring and other control measures, you can effectively manage your rat populations in a humane and environmentally friendly manner We welcome opportunity working collectively on rodent trap component of your pest management plans incorporating our industrialized galvanized steel traps and box tunnels. 

Prevention in the spring means much easier management the rest of the year. 

Tags: Agriculture, bubonic plague, Center for Disease Control, Eco Friendly, Environmental impact, Farming, Fenn Trap, Hantavirus, Integrated Pest Management, IPM, Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Mk 4 Fenn Trap, MK6 Fenn Trap, National Pest Management Association, National Wildlife Control Operators Association, NPMA, Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators Association, NWCOA, NYPMA, Pest Control, PestWorld2019, Pollution, Public Health, Rat infestation, Rat poisen, Rat Traps, Rats, Recycle, Rodent Traps, Rodexit, Salmonella, Sin aqua virus, tularemia, Typhus, Wildlife removal

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