Mouse activity of varying levels is being reported from almost the entire cropping area of NSW, as efforts step up to prevent a spring plague.
The sightings of the rodents in high or moderate numbers through the winter was cause for real concern, a scientist working to stop a surge said.
From May to August when zero mouse concerns would be expected, there were reports from all the way through the main part of NSW's cropping belt, CSIRO research officer Steve Henry said.
"With average to better than average crops being expected, that's cause for concern for us because those crops will put lots of food, lots of shelter and lead to really favourable conditions for mice, and the potential for mice to breed in really high numbers again," he said.
Mr Henry said from Narromine there were reports of baiting activity in some areas currently, which was "quite early in the spring".
Walgett seemed to be "a hotspot in the state at the moment", with reports of baiting starting early in August, he said.
The scientist suggested it might be because Walgett warmed up earlier, so the mice became active sooner.
Farmers in the district were seeing damage to faber beans, Mr Henry said.
Currently there was a significant baiting effort from essentially as far out as Lightning Ridge all the way back east to Burren Junction and then also in areas to the south of Walgett, he said.
Just yesterday I called a farmer, he couldn't answer his phone because he was filling his bait spreader.CSIRO research officer Steve Henry
Coonamble, particularly to the north-west of the town, was also in focus.
"Just yesterday I called a farmer, he couldn't answer his phone because he was filling his bait spreader," Mr Henry said.
"That indicates there's plenty of mice there, and they're taking action now.
"He also reported he'd been talking to a roo shooter who had been using an infrared scope, so no light, and through a large portion of his pasture, around Coonamble, they were seeing significant numbers of mice while they were trying to shoot kangaroos.
"So that's cause for concern."
At Nyngan and Trangie there were reports of early baiting efforts, which had been quite successful, but they were doing so because they were seeing signs of damage to pods in developing canola crops, Mr Henry said.
Farmers at Tottenham, which was understood to be experiencing "quite high numbers", had been baiting for three to four weeks, he said.
In the Parkes and Forbes district, farmers were not seeing signs of significant damage, but that indicated those areas were "a little bit colder", and the spring was only just starting, he said.
"The crop is still well and truly in the boot, so it's not emerging yet, so I would expect that we'd start to hear signs of damage over the next three to four weeks as the crop develops," he said.
Mice certainly haven't disappeared from that area, in the way we would see it at the end of a mouse outbreak.Steve Henry
"Mice certainly haven't disappeared from that area, in the way we would see it at the end of a mouse outbreak."
Mr Henry said control strategies were "be prepared, stay vigilant, keep monitoring, bait early, and harvest clean".
Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said it was invaluable to have all stakeholders together at the online forum on Tuesday for the latest updates and to discuss key issues with farmers.
"Mouse activity in regional NSW will increase in spring as conditions improve so it was beneficial to gather key scientists and experts for public discussion," Mr Marshall said.
"Developing a shared understanding of the issues facing our farmers and likely level of financial and operational risk to farming businesses helps ensure a coordinated approach to reducing those impacts.
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