Preparing your barn for winter - Pest management series part one

This 4-part series will address different areas of pest management and assist farmers with building and maintaining a pest management plan that is feasible for their options.

Mouse eating feed droppings in barn.

Introduction to Pest Management

As farmers, we know that raising livestock and growing crops comes with a number of challenges that may be out of our control, but that we can manage with our practices and protocols. Also as farmers, we are accustomed to doing as much as we can with as few people as possible, knowing that payroll is one of the largest costs for our operations. There are times that things fall through the cracks on farms or we just don’t have time or funds to complete every little project or task we would like. Many times, we focus on what saves or makes us money, meeting the pressures of a successful bottom-line. One of the areas that sometimes slips through the cracks on many farming operations is that of pest control. We know that rodents are an issue on every farm and very rarely do we make an effort to manage our pest populations to the best of our ability. The truth of the matter is, rodent problems and pest infestations can easily affect the bottom-line and trigger other issues on the farm. As winter approaches, farmsteads and barns are at greater risk to get some unexpected tenants and harbor pest populations. Rodents such as rats and mice tend to sneak their way into barns during the colder seasons and wreak havoc on barns and animals.

Rats and mice are known to cause considerable damage to the barns and indirectly to the animals that are housed inside the barns, however, the threat goes much beyond that. Rodents can cause structural damage to the fabric, cables and electrical systems in a barn. This can lead to fires, as well as insulation and wood damage. They are also destructive to animal feed and stored foods that may be present at the facility. This can increase the risk of disease outbreaks and biosecurity issues. More importantly, rodents do cause a risk to the health and hygiene of animals and also people. They are vectors in which pathogens can be transferred to both farm animals and people. Rodents have been recorded to carry up to 45 diseases than can easily be transmitted to farm animals if they are in the same vicinity (Table 1, Timm 2010).

Table 1. Pig diseases spread by rodents



Host / carrier






Rats & mice



Rats & mice

Aujeszky's disease






Swine erysipelas





Various rodents




Instituting and maintaining a pest control program on your farm will go a long way in helping mitigate the risks associated with a rodent population at your facility. There are many methods of control and a robust pest control program should include a number of different physical and biological systems. Pest control should not be considered a one-step approach and time should be taken to assess your situation to determine if you are facing a routine control issue or infestation. Simple steps such as cleaning and proofing the buildings should be taken prior to the employment of eradication methods. Without these steps, continued or reinfection of the site will remain an issue. The use of physical methods, such as trapping or non-toxic baits may be the only type of rodent control that is needed if you have a limited pest population. For facilities that may have an increase population or infestation of mice and rats, biological controls like rodenticides may be the best option. High-risk sites like farms should always maintain a pest control program that involves monitoring, evaluation and treatment of problems.

By employing a pest management plan at your farm, the environmental management of your site will improve. This can be accomplished by using a four-step approach of: increasing hygiene or cleanliness, proofing, doing maintenance and completing repairs. Making these steps routine will help you avoid pest infestations, which when established, are difficult to eradicate. The overall goal of your pest management plan is to make your site or barn less attractive to rodents. This means removing places of shelter like garbage, old equipment or piled up junk and preventing access to food and water sources for rodents. Farmers can use best practices to target rodents and mitigate harm to untended animals and the environment including:

  • Keeping area clear of debris, old equipment, trash and junk.
  • Denying access to food and water sources.
  • Clearing area of harborage, places where rodents may live and feel protected.
  • Removing and maintaining vegetation to allows for natural predators to have better access to rodents, helping to control the population.
  • Creating and maintaining hard surfaces around the site or barn to prevent rodent burrowing.
  • When needed, using physical or biological methods to help reduce and control the rodent population.

Additional articles in series

Part two - Understanding rodent types and signs of infestation

Part three – Rodent control methods

Part four – Pest control records and monitoring


Buckle, Alan, et al. “Anticoagulant Resistance in the Norway Rat and Guidelines for the Management of Resistant Rat Infestations in the UK.” Rodenticide Resistant Action Group, June 2010,

“Rodent Control on Farms.” The Pig Site, 19 Feb. 2015,

Timm, Robert M. “Controlling Rats and Mice in Swine Facilities.” Extension, 20 Apr. 2010,

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