True scale of mouse plague horror revealed

Farmers have revealed the scale of a ‘ceaseless’ mice infestation that has caused massive damage to their properties.

Farmers have demanded action from the NSW government to combat the unending plague of mice, saying it has caused some to lose their entire summer crops which has pushed people “to the limit”.

But Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall did not show up to a briefing at Parliament House in Sydney on Tuesday that had been arranged by farming and rural advocates, nor did any other government MP.

“It makes us feel very frustrated,” NSW Country Women’s Association chief executive Danica Leys said.

“We’re not representing a noisy minority, we’re representing the vast majority of people in this state across rural, regional and remote areas.

“So it’s disappointing when we don’t see members of the government that actually reside in those areas turn up and actually listen.”

A spokesman for Mr Marshall said the mouse plague briefing clashed with a joint party room meeting held regularly on Tuesday mornings of parliamentary sitting weeks, which is mandatory for all government MPs to attend.

However, the minister last week met with NSW Farmers, a co-organiser of the briefing, the spokesman said.

The farming delegation has asked for a financial aid package that would provide up to $25,000 per farm to pay for bait.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the government would support it.

The mouse plague has become the latest problem facing farmers after the welcome end of a drought that lasted several years.

In fact, the same summer rains that came as a blessing to farmers helped the mice thrive as well. Ample fodder and flourishing fields meant the mice had lots to eat and were able to spike in numbers.

It’s an ironic circumstance that highlights how the regions just haven’t been able to catch a break in recent years.

“The anxiety and the stress is pushing people really to the limit – they think they’ve done everything possible, they’ve mitigated the drought, their business have been able to survive that,” farmer Matthew Madden said.

“Now they’re wondering ‘do we put more money into a crop that may be eaten before we even start?’

“You’ve got the farmers and their families dealing with mice running over your hair, running over your children – it really has to be seen to be believed.”

Farmers NSW said some farms had lost their entire summer crops to the vermin and winter crops were affected as well.

The mice also spread diseases and the organisation said the Western NSW Local Health District had reported increased cases of the mouse-related illness leptospirosis, which can be harmful to the liver and kidneys and even deadly in some cases.

Preliminary results from a survey of some 1100 rural residents showed nearly all had been forced to bait for mice.

Nearly one-third of respondents had spent between $20,000 and $150,000 on baiting, while some had forked out more than that.

Farmers NSW also said some pest management companies had jacked up prices because of the high demand, and three-quarters of survey respondents said they had trouble accessing enough bait.

The infestation is having a mental health impact as well, with nearly all respondents saying they had felt financial stress because of the problem and 85 per cent reporting trouble sleeping.

An expert from CSIRO has previously explained the extreme rate at which the mice can multiply.

“Mice start breeding when they’re six weeks old and have a litter every 19 to 20 days after that. They can have up to 10 pups per litter, which means the rate of increase is really dramatic,” CSIRO research officer Steve Henry said.

“As soon as they have a litter of pups, they fall pregnant again. They gestate the next litter while feeding the previous one.”

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