Minimizing negative effects of pests – Dr. Michelle Windle, Vita Plus

Posted on July 29, 2016 in Forage Foundations
By Dr. Michelle Windle, Vita Plus forage products and dairy technical service specialist
In the May 2016 Forage Foundations, we described the effects pests, such as birds, raccoons and rats, have on feed quality.  In this second article, we aim to describe ways to minimize those effects.
Home remedies
Pests seek water, food and shelter. Successful prevention minimizes the availability of these resources.  Clean up spilled grain and feed, keep watering trough levels low enough to prevent birds from perching and drinking, but high enough for the cattle to drink, and minimize standing water.  Controlling vegetative growth, especially around grain and silage storage, deters animals that do not like to be exposed in short grass, like mice, rats, raccoons, and opossums.

Exclusion of pests from critical feed areas limits their food sources.  Close all openings larger than 1 inch and put netting over the inlet of the rafters or the ridge cap. Partially cover feed troughs and minimize areas for perching above the feed troughs with porcupine wire or sticky substances to limit roosting.  Bird nets are available to cover the silage face after daily facing.  Many have reported great success in stopping animals from digging in sealed silos with thick mesh silo covers.

Even with the best prevention and exclusion, pests may require treatment.  Live trapping can be slow and labor-intensive.  Large-scale, mesh bird traps targeting large quantities of birds can yield effective, yet temporary results.

Sounds played over a loud speaker, such as birds-of-prey calls, distressed bird calls or gunshots, can scare away animals.  Experienced users employ sound rotation to ensure the pests don’t become complacent with one sound.

A live bird-of-prey, like a falcon, is usually very successful.  Falconers can fly their birds on farms or natural habitats can be created to encourage wild birds to live on a farm. Often a raptor can be easily attracted by providing a pole nearby with a horizontal cross-member at the top for a perch. Some companies offer decoy birds of prey or drones that mimic birds-of-prey. Although expensive, and possibly time-consuming, the drone version has yielded general success.

Toxicants for birds must be registered for use in your state, and can only be used by government-certified applicators.  Click here for the Wisconsin database.  Pesticide treatments have yielded differing results.  Proper pre-baiting is key to success.  Some pesticides focus on artificially inducing a bird’s natural flight response to make the entire flock flee.  Others involve pre-baiting then offering pesticide-treated feed.

Professional assistance
USDA-APHIS wildlife services are available to help animal damage management with their own starling program, employing the most effective Starlicide available, DRC1339.  This is the only agency allowed to use this product.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program focuses on minimizing damage from bear, deer, turkeys, geese, elks, and cougars, and provides assistance to producers with cost-shared abatement techniques.  This program uses a stair-step approach, including techniques such as hunting, shooting permits, mesh silo covers and, in drastic cases, permanent fencing around feed structures, including silos.  Roughly 700 to 800 producers participate annually. Details on the Wisconsin program can be found by clicking here and similar programs may exist in your state.

Other strategies with varying success rates exist. These include using a chemical fogger on rooftops, spraying to make the grass flavor less appealing to geese or applying paint that glows in an unpleasant manner to birds’ eyes to stop them from landing on painted areas.  Effectiveness varies. Regardless, make sure the management technique you employ is legal. The only unprotected birds that are legal to kill without a permit are starlings, house sparrows and pigeons.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all method, many safe and effective options are available for each situation.  The best animal control program starts with prevention, focuses on exclusion and treats the problem quickly before it gets out of hand.

Category: Facility design
Forage Foundations
Forage storage and management