Don't laugh - this is serious - a mouse plague is making the nation's hay bales rather more dangerous than is usually the case.
In Victoria, the mouse is roaring. The State's workplace safety authority, WorkSafe, has issued a warning to Victorian farmers about a mouse plague that is apparently seeing large numbers of rodents invade hay bales.
Victoria is awash with mice after a wet and warmish winter. Mice are now on the march seeking munchies and hay bales are on the menu - they're tasty, huge and also offer a great hiding place in which to chow down, just the thing if you want to avoid becoming a snack for a bird or fox.
But those eating habits aren't good for the safety of farm workers.
“Stacks of bales are solid when they’re made, but infestation with mice means they can become unstable and fall," warned Ross Pilkington, Director of WorkSafe's Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Division. "But if you "see evidence of mice, particularly displaced hay that they’ve dug out of a stack, take great care when working on or near it,” because it could mean mice have eaten the inside of the hay bale, leaving it ready to topple.
Here's a shot of what to look for if you need to identify a dodgy bale: that hay on the sides is a sign of internal nibbling on an industrial scale.
If you spot this stuff, what should you do?
“Removing one bale at a time and being aware of the potential for upper layers to shift or give way in the centre will help ensure no one is hurt,” Pilkington advised, adding that climbing on the bales is a bad idea and that you should only try to shift bales with the right equipment and a safety-first attitude.
Keep the kids away too - you don't want school holiday fun going wrong.