FARMERS IN Australia are under ‘siege from an unrelenting mouse plague’ which has seen millions of mice causing extensive damage in eastern parts of the country.

Farmers have coined it the worst mouse plague in memory, as numbers continue to explode just as farmers recover from a recent drought and last year’s bushfires.

There are widespread reports of mice taking over people's homes, sheds, machinery, eating crops and attacking grain silos, as well as concerns that the mice are contaminating food and water.

Australia's National Farmers Federation said there is a constant fear of the potential spread of the many human diseases spread by mice.

The recent dry conditions, coupled with a reduction in predator numbers – owing to the recent bush fires – has allowed breeding to explode. The infestation is piling on financial and mental pressures to farmers predominantly living in the New South Wales region of the country, but recent reports claim that mice are ‘marching’ towards Australia’s biggest city Sydney, with an infestation predicted by August.

The SF spoke to Australian pig farmer Andrew Whitelaw, who farms in neighbouring region Victoria but is originally from Dumfries in south west Scotland. He reported that the siltation is 'disgusting': "The majority of the mouse problem is in New South Wales. This area suffered through two years of drought then last year had a bumper crop. This is partially responsible for the extra ‘fees’ available for mice. It was hoped that the floods back in the early part of the year would get rid of them – it hasn’t. The next thing will be whether the winter gets rid," he continued.

"The scale of the problem is out of this world – I have heard of people catching hundreds over night – and not making a dent. Luckily the government have quickly changed the law to allow more powerful poison."

A $50 million package has been announced by the NSW Government which will deliver free-of-charge grain treatment at sites across the state and rebates for the cost of baits – $500 for households and $1000 for small businesses to help combat the rodents.

NSW agriculture minister Adam Marshall said the state government had also sought ‘urgent approval’ from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for farmers to use an illegal poison called bromadiolone to control mice on their properties. "It'll be the equivalent of napalming mice across rural NSW," he told papers.

But this possible use of bromadiolone has sparked debate, due to fears of secondary poisoning in animals, including farm animals such as cattle and working dogs.

Mr Marshall has conceded that the use of bromadiolone would likely result in the deaths of other animals but stressed: "Literally we don't have any other control method for mice and we can't afford economically and socially to allow these mice to go around destroying crops and fodder.

"There is going to be a cost to this for some other animals but it's something that's been factored in and we just have to take this step."

The National Farmers’ Federation welcomed the assistance, adding that the mice were impacting not only crops and pastures, grain storages and farm equipment but households.

“The mice have infiltrated almost every corner of farmers lives and businesses and the problem is not only applying financial pressure,” said president Fiona Simson.