6 Ways to Rodent-Proof Your Barn

( Andy Schoenherr, Motomco )

Consistency is key when it comes to controlling rodents on your farm. It’s something you must do all the time, says Jim Lowe, DVM, director of the College of Veterinary Medicine I-Learning Center at the University of Illinois

“Rodent control is not just putting some bait out and calling it good,” Lowe says.

That’s one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to fighting mice and rat infestations, says Steve Von Haden, Midwest business manager for Motomco.

“Remember all rodent bait is made from food – 16 to 20 food grade ingredients in fact,” Von Haden says. “The longer it is in the environment, the less appealing it is. That’s one reason why you should always keep bait in a bait station.” 

Von Haden offers six ways you can rodent-proof your barn to keep unintended visitors out:

1.    Bait from the outside in. 
Place rodent bait stations on the outside – get them before they come into the barn, Von Haden says. Typically, a mouse can get through a nickel-sized hole. A rat can get through a quarter-sized hole. If you have bait stations placed every 50’ to 75’ on the outside of the barn, they have a safe area to go in and have food (bait). If you don’t have bait stations, they will find a hole about that size and get inside however they can.

2.    Keep fresh bait out. 
Keep fresh bait out and be consistent about it. If bait isn’t fresh, rats and mice will just move on to other readily available sources of food in your barn or building. Don’t just bait twice a year, Von Haden adds. In the long run, if you bait on a monthly basis versus two times a year, you will use less bait because you don’t have the high peaks of infestation. Wear gloves when applying bait so you don’t get your scent on the bait. Rodents have an extremely good sense of smell. They can’t see well, but anything you can do to get the rodent to consume that bait will be better for you in the long run. 

3.    Strategize bait placement.
When you place bait inside of a barn, recognize that it is poison. Always put bait in tamper-resistant bait stations, which means they are safe for kids, pets and non-target animals. Don’t place it where animals will consume bait and possibly get sick or die. Know where rodents are traveling in your barn. Generally, rodents will run curtain lines because they are gnawing and chewing on those curtains, he says. Von Haden tries to place more bait stations, depending on if it’s a sow barn or finisher, in corners where they rodents tend to eat and groom. Although it may be tempting to push the bait just a little farther apart than recommended, he encourages people to remember rodents will only travel so far. Place bait stations every 8’ to 15’, depending on your infestation. 

4.    Keep your barn clean inside and outside.
Clean up spilled feed, Von Haden reminds. Spilled feed gives rodents a reason to travel to that area of your barn. Cleanliness is important. In fact, 75% of a rodent program is allowing other predators to help control the rodents. If you keep the outside of the barn around the bulk bins clean, those other predators will need to look for food (rodents).

5.    Keep grass and trees around the barn to a minimum. 
Mow grass outside your barn or building regularly or provide a 3’ sterile zone up against the barn. By keeping harborage, trees and weeds down to a minimum, you block protection for mice trying to avoid predators.

6.    Maintain buildings. 
Pig barns and buildings will settle over the years, which often results in some gaps, especially under the doors. Make sure gaps and holes in the barn are repaired, especially in areas where rodents travel. Look for any way you can block their access to get in, Von Haden says.

Rodent-proofing your barn or building is important 365 days a year. It only takes a dime-sized hole to result in an infestation that could cost you a great deal of time and money. 

“If you keep rodents out of the barn, they are easy to control. If they get into the barn, it’s game on with a food source and great nesting area,” Von Haden says.

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