In any business, threats to livelihood are attacked aggressively. So when burrowing rodents start killing crops and reducing yield in the ag business, farmers don’t think twice about eradicating them from their operation.
“From crop loss and equipment damage to irrigation berm wash outs, burrowing rodents can devastate farmers’ bottom line,” says Matt Roland, owner of Rodent Nation, a Payette, Idaho-based burrowing pest exterminator that services from small pastures to large hay farms, as well as orchards and vineyards, in North America.
While traditional rodent control techniques include poison, trapping, and shooting, farmers are eliminating burrowing rodents with an underground concussive force, tunnel destroying method up to 40% more effective than these familiar approaches.
In other words, farmers and even the pest control companies they hire are blowing up these pests and their tunnels because it makes good business sense to do so.
Burrowing Rodent Devastation
Pocket gophers, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs (often in combination) top the list for burrowing rodent ag loss in many North American farms.
“Burrowing rodents on a hayfield can cost you up to 50% of your yield, while cutting the longevity of your stand by half or more,” says Roland. “Pocket gophers attack the root. Ground squirrels and prairie dogs eat the foliage too; if they eat alfalfa down to the crown, it won’t grow back so you have to replant it.”
The mounds burrowing rodents leave in fields, sometimes to the tune of thousands per field, can also jam, damage, or break machinery, causing costly downtime.
“On larger hay ranches, the hay equipment repair bill can run over $50,000 a year, due to swathers and balers hitting the mounds,” says Roland. “In areas with drip irrigation, burrowing rodents can chew the drip lines to pieces.”
Soil erosion and irrigation wash outs can also occur if burrowing rodents dig into irrigation berms or ditches.
“When gophers, ground squirrels, or prairie dogs burrow into the ground, leaving a hollow spot, you have the potential for irrigation system cave-ins or wash outs,” says Roland. “We’ve seen massive canal water blow outs when they’ve damaged the integrity of the bank or berm.”
With slim profit margins already, farmers do not appreciate the lower market prices that burrowing rodents can cause.
“Whether gophers, ground squirrels, or prairie dogs chew the crops, cause stress damage from compromised irrigation, or get dirt in your windrows when rotary heads hit their mounds, the result will lower your hay crop value for that cutting,” says Roland.
While Rodent Nation has experience with all common methods of burrowing rodent control, it has found some methods clearly more efficient, and cost-effective than others.
“Poison is only effective at certain times of year with prairie dogs and ground squirrels,” says Roland. “Even then I’ve seen some ground squirrels “get wise” to the poison and simply not eat it.”
With poison products, there is also the issue of residual kill, if dogs or cats eat the poisoned pests. Additionally, there is a possibility of the poison getting on crops or into groundwater that farmers may want to avoid.
Roland says that shooting ground squirrels and prairie dogs is possible when they are above ground, but will not work for pocket gophers that spend most of their time underground.
“The main challenge with shooting and trapping burrowing rodents is that these methods very labor intensive,” says Roland. “Busy farmers have enough to do already.”
According to studies Rodent Nation has done, a burrowing rodent pest elimination system called the Rodenator, manufactured by Emmett, Idaho-based Meyer Industries (www.rodenator.com), has proven up to 40% more effective at eliminating burrowing pests than traditional methods.
The Rodenator injects a calibrated mixture of propane and oxygen into the ground and ignites the mixture to create a concussive force that instantly kills burrowing pests underground and collapses their tunnels without damaging crops or the environment.
“We’ve found the Rodenator to be the fastest, most direct, and cost effective way to eliminate a burrowing rodent problem,” says Roland. “In our studies and field use, we’ve found it to be up to 40% faster than traditional methods like trapping to achieve the desired kill rate, as well as up to 40% less expensive to use.”
According to Roland, such speed and effectiveness in addressing a rodent problem can literally save the farm in some cases. “When you’re dealing with a rodent infestation, you need to act quickly before it escalates into a bigger problem that could cripple your livelihood and potentially lead to abandoning a field,” he says.
Unlike poison, trapping, and shooting, the underground tunnel collapsing approach is the only method that allows farmers to immediately attack the rodent problem, while preventing neighboring pests from moving into existing tunnel systems.