MILDER WINTERS mean farmers must be on their guard against rats.

Cold winters help cull the pest’s population, but the warmer weather of recent years has seen numbers increase, the British Pest Control Association has warned.

The BPCA's new online guide to help farmers prevent problems with rats delves into the species' life cycle and habits, as well as giving tips on avoiding infestation.

BPCA technical manager Dee Ward-Thompson said: “Rats have to gnaw in order to keep their teeth in shape, and they’re not shy about what they gnaw on.

“Common ‘gnaw-spots’ include the sheathing around electrical cables, which present a significant fire risk, and pipes, which is likely to result in leaks, both water and gas.

“Cinderblock, wood, glass, metal – rats’ teeth will take on pretty much any challenge, which is why they can cause untold damage.”

Property owners have a legal obligation under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 to keep premises rodent free, or, if rodents pose a threat to health or property, to report infestations to the local authority.

Environmental Health Officers can issue enforcement notices to farmers who don’t have adequate pest management procedures in place. They can also face fines, with repeat offenders in danger of facing legal action.

Ms Ward-Thompson added: “For any rat infestation, we would always recommend contacting a professional pest management company, a member of BPCA.They are trained in rodent control and will have access to a range of professional-use rodenticides and tools, which are not available to the public. Knowing how much, where, and when to deploy products is where professionals are able to take control of situations efficiently."