Establishing Robust Pest Management Programs in Agriculture Facilities

The biggest pain point for agriculture clients in pest management today is far and away birds, says Jeff Freeborn, manager of Sprague’s Bakersfield, California branch.

Referring to the increased scrutiny under mandates from the FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act), Freeborn finds inspectors and auditors alike are turning their attention to the threat birds pose to agriculture and food processing, storage and distribution facilities.

Why is the attention now drawn to birds which have always presented a threat to these facilities? The reason for closer scrutiny is two-fold. 

One, inspectors and auditors have realized they were not paying as close attention to birds as they did with other commonly encountered pests such as rodents and flies. Two, research studies have established a link to bacterial infections in humans caused by exposure to bird droppings.

“Inspectors and auditors and looking more closely at bird threats in and around agriculture and food processing facilities. Commercial clients need to factor bird exclusion into their overall pest management program,” says Freeborn.

Dangerous bacteria including listeria and salmonella can be introduced into agriculture and food processing facilities from bird droppings in a variety of ways, including, on the soles of shoes, from birds nesting on exposed structural beams, or from droppings on crops that were left in uncovered tractor trailers waiting to be unloaded outside of a facility. 

Sprague offers clients a multi-faceted approach to bird management with heavy emphasis on exclusion. This includes cultural practices, and installing bird netting, wiring, spikes and other deterrents.

Rodents also have long been a thorn in the side of agriculture and food processing facilities . As harvest season swings into full gear, the threat of rodents being unknowingly brought inside in shipping containers rises.

Freeborn says packing and processing facilities handling carrots, potatoes and onions are more vulnerable to rodent incursions. When these underground crops are harvested, rodent burrows are disturbed and the rodents often get swept up in shipping and storage containers that are brought directly to a plant for processing.

“It can be hard to conduct inspections on large shipments of crops and we have to be proactive at potential entry points to the facility,” says Freeborn. “We deploy snap traps and bait stations adjacent to offloading areas to knock down rodents that scatter in search of a safe place to hide when they arrive.”

Another unique strategy Sprague deploys is the use of compressed air sprayers to dislodge hitchhiking rodents (and other pests) from pallets and bins containing unprocessed crops.

“Stacked pallets or storage bins waiting to be unloaded are a highly desirable target for rodents (and other pests) and facilities will bring hundreds of these inside on a daily basis,” says Freeborn. “using a compressed air sprayer to flush out pests is one way to reduce the threat.”

Freeborn says facilities can help their own cause by addressing and correcting pest conducive conditions, including structural repairs and adhering to consistently applied sanitation protocols.

Need assistance with keeping birds and rodents out of your packing, processing or shipping facility? Talk with one of the pest management and food safety specialists for expert advice, innovative solutions and proven results.