December 13, 2013

Smithfield pig farm making progress on rat problem

During a follow up visit this week, the code enforcement officer said he saw one rat and the barns owned by pig farmer Nelson Mitchell no longer were littered with food waste.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD — When Code Enforcement Officer Andy Marble and the town’s health officer visited a pig farm on Village Road Nov. 20 they saw dozens of rats feeding on expired produce, bread and canned goods.

Rodent control reccomendations

Best practices for rodent control at farms with livestock:

• Make sure all food is in rodent-proof containers

• Clean up any food scraps

• Keep grain in secure containers

• Keep grain and animal feed off site until they are needed

• Clean canned food containers and take them to be recycled more than once a week

• Use traps and poison to control a rodent population if a problem develops

source: state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

During a follow up visit this week, Marble said he saw one rat and the barns owned by pig farmer Nelson Mitchell no longer were littered with food waste.

Even the neighbors are pleased with the progress, but said they are worried that the problem could return when the snow melts and spring arrives.

“I toured the facility for about 45 minutes and saw probably eight bowls of rat poison spread out in closed spaces where nothing bigger than a rat could get into them,” Marble said. “The entire time I was there I actually saw only one rat and it was dying next to a food bowl — I guess it’s working.”

Marble said Mitchell, 71, is doing a better job cleaning up the empty cans of food since the first inspection.

“It actually was a stark improvement from what it was two weeks prior,” Marble said.

Marble, who also is code enforcement officer for the town of Rome, said a rat infestation such as the one on Village Road is unusual and the one at the Mitchell farm is the first he has seen.

Matthew Randall, agricultural compliance supervisor at the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, who visited Mitchell at the town’s request Nov. 27 but was not allowed onto the property to conduct an inspection, agreed.

Randall also said a rodent problem such as the one in Smithfield is uncommon. He said he has only seen two such cases in his seven years with the department — the other being in southern Maine.

A rat infestation in 2009 at the closed China Village General Store ended with success thanks to the efforts of local business owners who paid for a year’s worth of extermination services, according to a Morning Sentinel archives.

Bait traps were set up inside and outside the store and the rat problem was solved.

China Town Clerk Becky Hapgood said Friday the store is clean and since has been sold. A new retail shop, Olde Thyme Primitives, is set to open there in the spring, Hapgood said.

Resident Andrew Landry said earlier this month that his mother’s new home, next door to the Mitchell farm, was being ruined by the rats. He said rats have chewed through plastic water lines, insulation and walls and threaten his mother’s radiant heating system, which was installed in the slab that makes up the base of the floor of the home.

Contacted this week, Landry and his mother Jean Mosher said they haven’t seen any rats since Marble took enforcement action.

“It’s quiet right now — I haven’t seen any rats or any indication of any around here,” Mosher said. “My son said he saw a couple in his wood pile, but that’s common. I’m satisfied with what they’ve been doing. They check on him once a week — they’re cleaning up, they didn’t really have much choice.”

Landry said everything appears to be OK now, but worries that the rats might return in the spring if Mitchell doesn’t continue to comply with the cleanup order.

“Everything’s going alright, but it’s been real cold and real snowy so I haven’t see too many,” Landry said. “We’ll see what it’s going to be like in the spring.”

Mitchell’s housemate of 40 years, Bertha Keyser, said the couple is complying with Marble’s orders to clean up.

“They keep coming and checking up and they know we’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing,” she said. “They come and check us every week; they have okayed us. It was blown all out of proportion.”

(Continued on page 2)

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