Wherever there is man, there are rats. They normally seek shelter and food in the cooler months and the stableyard offers the perfect habitat – warm, sheltered and a good supply of feed. Everyone knows rats can carry bubonic plague and salmonellosis. But they also carry leptospirosis, trichinosis, lice, ticks, mites, parasites, and fleas. A rat will not only enjoy a feast, but will spoil up to 10 times more food by contamination with droppings, fur and urine. They will chew on your building structures, electricity cables, saddle blankets, and anything else they can find. Unless you plan well, you can soon be overrun and find your winter food stocks ruined.
Know your enemy
A rat can live 18 months. They can have four litters every year of up to 12 babies, which can reproduce after only three months. That’s a lot of rats. They can live anywhere, are great climbers and can squeeze through 13mm gaps. Rats are intelligent, naturally suspicious and aware of any changes in their environment. A rat consumes 10 % of its weight every day, so a colony could eat a tonne of your grain in one year. When food is in short supply, they will eat anything, including saddle soap or plaster. Rats need a good supply of water. You can find more information about rats at grampiansquirrelgroup.co.uk.
Control your rodents
Check your stables for holes or gaps and fill them or cover with wire mesh. Keep your horses feed areas clean and store all feeds in rodent-proof plastic containers. Rats need water, so always mop up and keep water bowls away. If they are already in residence, then there are many poisons available. Take care to follow the instructions and protect your other livestock. Traps are a good alternative, but use a lot – at least 8 or 10 around the stable area. Set your traps in corners and bait them with meat. There is not usually a rodent problem in the summer months, so remember to start early!