Effective Fly Control

Published on Wed, 04/21/2021 - 1:21pm

Effective Fly Control.

 By Maura Keller.

 Cattlemen and dairy farmers take pride in their animals and the well-being of the herd. Unfortunately the unceasing presence of flies poses a risk to livestock, causing unnecessary use of energy, as well as a potential disease, decrease in grazing efficiency, reduced growth rates, reduced weaning weights, and milk production.

Hue Fussell, president of Fussell Farms says the key reason that fly control matters is that it’s humane. “Farmers and ranchers care about their cattle, and when an animal has a fly load of several thousand flies, that’s just unpleasant,” Fussell says. “Being able to eliminate that is good stewardship, and it’s the right thing to do. It’s ethical. And the market—consumers—increasingly care about things like this. It becomes marketable.”

“It’s important to have a multi-faceted approach to fly control with an integrated pest management (IPM) plan in mind with proper chemical, cultural, mechanical, biological, and physical methods,” says Shawn Dore, insect control product manager, animal safety at NEOGEN. “Many times we see producers try to manage fly populations with only one method of control, when in reality they should be focusing their efforts across multiple methods with an IPM plan in place. Fly control pays for itself with increased productivity and should not be overlooked.”

According to Dr. Mike Fletcher, entomologist at Y-TEX Corporation, today cattle and dairy producers better understand the importance of fly control on cattle and the economic impact pests have on overall animal performance.  

As Fletcher explains, producers also are paying closer attention to resistance management which is the ability of the pest to develop tolerances to insecticides. “Regarding the advancements, there are now three classes of insecticides used in ear tags, synthetic pyrethroids, organophosphates and macrocyclic lactones that can be used in rotation, either singularly or in combination,” Fletcher says. “Using these three chemical classes effectively can significantly delay the onset of insecticide resistance.”

The greatest change the team at Central Life Sciences is seeing as it relates to fly control is a better understanding of the impact flies pose to cattle and the related health and production issues associated with their presence.

“We know more than ever before about the diseases flies spread and how the stress they induce can negatively impact productivity,” says Paul Kropp, national account manager, feed additive group at Central Life Sciences. “For feed-through products in particular, we have added an additional dose rate to better reflect today’s heavier cows. This will help ensure more producers achieve proper fly control in their herds.”

Kropp says that the severity of a fly infestation is typically in the eye of the beholder for most producers, when in fact there is an established economic threshold that needs to be met. “Horn fly populations can reach up to 4,000 flies per animal if untreated, and can lead to losses as high as $40 per head, per year due to the spread of disease and stress they inflict,” Kropp says. “While we’ll never completely eliminate flies on cattle, we know that even reaching a level of 200 flies per head will begin to help producers improve their bottom line.”

There are limited chemistry options available for horn fly control, and it is important to be judicious with how they are used to limit resistance concerns. That’s the main reason why Central Life Sciences recommends an IPM program built around Altosid IGR as it has no known history of resistance and works by breaking the fly’s life cycle. As Kropp explains, this allows producers to use other control options like sprays and back rubbers on an as-needed basis since they only target the adults and are prone to resistance. Also, using a feed-through product like Altosid IGR lets the animal do the work depositing the product exactly where flies lay eggs, in the manure. This eliminates the labor required to apply other control methods and the added stress from additional cattle handling.

When utilizing a feed-through technology like Altosid IGR, it is important to begin delivery of the product before flies emerge. Every day that flies overload cattle, producers lose gains and the cattle endure added stress. Ideally, the product should be fed 30 days before the expected last freeze in the area to ensure that the manure is treated at a lethal level when female flies begin laying eggs. To maximize genetic potential and reduce stress on the cattle, it is important to keep horn fly populations below the economic threshold of 200 flies per head from day one.   

For dairy farms, Central Life Sciences recommends an IPM program built around ClariFly Larvicide that controls all four main fly species, is labor-free, and works by breaking the fly’s life cycle. This allows dairymen to utilize other control methods like sprays, traps, and baits to complement their feed-through program and provide a well-rounded IPM approach to fly control.

According to Kropp, with confined spaces, consistent moisture, and large amounts of organic matter, dairies provide perfect breeding grounds for flies. It is important to select the right product for the threat. By combining cultural best practices, manure management, and a complementary mix of fly control products, dairymen will have more effective fly control and maximize their financial investment.

“We find that most dairymen see flies as a nuisance on the farm, but many are not convinced of a particular solution to the problem or an acceptable level of control,” Kropp says. “Fly infestations are a tremendous stressor for cattle and have a negative effect on milk production.” In fact, data supports an economic threshold of 50 stable flies per head that dairymen can use as a guide for their herd. As house flies are efficient carriers of disease, it is important to also keep their numbers under control.

Another big issue producers encounter today is face fly control. Face fly control is significant because not all methods available to beef producers are as effective against the face fly as they are against horn flies. Fletcher says this is important because face flies are not only a significant nuisance to cattle, but they are also a primary vector of pink eye in cattle.
Y-TEX offers an extensive line of premium quality insecticide tags for control of horn flies and face flies as well as pour-ons, sprays and dust products.

At Vitalix, they utilize Central Life Science’s fly control products in Vitalix tubs. They have a wide array of fly control tubs available that include Central Life products, Altosid IGR  and ClariFly.

“We also are proud to include BioImpact Garlic in our fly control line up,” says Hannah Riley, nutrition specialist at Vitalix. “And new in 2021, we are excited to offer a protein, mineral and breeding tub that includes a Altosid IGR and BioImpact Garlic combination.”

 Vitalix also uses a new, highly concentrated garlic in the form of an extract oil. As Riley explains, BioImpact Garlic’s effect against flies comes from its natural defense mechanism. When animals ingest BioImpact Garlic, the animal emits odor through their skin and breath. The emitted odor, repels flies from landing on the animal. “Along with being a great all natural, effective fly repellent, our Garlic extract has been proven to repel ticks,” Riley says.

Embracing Automation
For farmers and ranchers looking for automated approaches to fly control, there are plenty of options available for their specific needs.

The team at Fussell Farms is seeing producers moving to automated fly control solutions for the same reason that any business does anything: money. The producer can simply make more money with good fly control.

As Fussell explains, several university studies on the effects of flies on cattle demonstrate that flies increase stress, and stress takes weight off of cows. Being able to remove that stress allows a cow to put on weight faster and maintain that weight, and heavier cows are worth more money.

“Secondly, vector-borne diseases like pink eye are costly problems. With an automated fly control solution like the Fussell Farms family of products, a producer is probably spending less than $.06 per application, and depending on current market prices, a herd size of 50 cows will pay for their unit in two years,” Fussell says. “A herd size of 100 cows or more will pay for their unit in one year. The return on investment is so good for complete, thorough, automated fly control that it’s a simple decision.”

Fussell Farms’ Original Cow Sprayer is like a car wash for cows. The free-standing, self-contained unit is placed between two pastures or at the end of a chute, for example on a feed lot. When cows walk through it, eight spray nozzles apply insecticide from the cow’s head all the way to its tail, on its back, belly and legs. The smaller Cow Sprayer Express does the same thing, but the producer builds their own gate or turnstile for the unit to sit on.

“It’s amazing to walk up to a Cow Sprayer after 50 or 100 cows have walked through it, and literally see tens of thousands of flies dead and dying on the ground,” Fussell says. “It’s unsettling—but you can also see that killing all those flies breaks the reproductive cycle and reduces the overall insect load on a farm.”

Considerations to Make
When selecting the idea fly control system for a dairy or cattle operation there are key questions to address:
• Does the product do what it’s supposed to do? Does it work, and how well does it work? Have flies been reduced? Have they been eliminated?
• Does it do so efficiently? How much time does a solution take? What risks are involved? If you’ve reduced the flies on your cows but you have a hospital bill from getting stepped on, are you ahead?
• Are there other ancillary benefits? Are there other ancillary benefits to be gained from your program? If so, it’s a good one.

It’s also important to continually assess the challenges posed to your operation by existing fly populations in an effort to implement effective control. Don’t settle for the products and control methods you’ve always used. As Dore explains, there is a lot of information available regarding the products and strategies to assist a producer’s operation in developing an IPM plan. “Effective fly control is a step forward in helping to sustain growth, and increase your profitability,” Dore says.

NEOGEN has many products available to help in the fight against flies on both beef and dairy cattle, including the Prozap line of products such as Prozap StandGuard Pour-On, Prozap Insectrin 1% Pour-On Xtra, Prozap Insectrin CS, Prozap Beef & Dairy RTU, Prozap Vapona 400E, Prozap PyGanic Livestock Spray, Prozap LD-44Z and Dy-Fly Aerosol Foggers and many more.

“We understand that having a multi-faceted approach to fly control will ultimately help to guard profits, and help our customers maintain productivity on their operations,” Dore says. With this in mind NEOGEN offers pour-ons, spray-ons, aerosols, insecticides for misting systems, back-rubber insecticides, premise control products, dusts and the devices needed to apply these products. For more confined operating customers they also have automatic dispensers that pair with our Prozap LD-44T and are able to provide protection for up to 30 days.

Bryan McPhail with Lewis Cattle Oilers says that producers also need to make sure to handle fly control throughout all seasons of the year because as temperatures drop, flies keep warm by remaining under the coats of your cattle or dairy herd. Though not as visible, the flies must still be treated.

As the name implies, the Lewis Cattle Oiler applies a hide-deep topical insecticide to livestock as they satisfy their natural instinct to scratch. As the animals scratch on the mechanism, the insecticide leaves a residue on the cattle’s coat and hide to kill pests on contact. As fly season wears on, fly populations generally increase. In addition to horn flies, face flies, stable flies and mosquitos, the applied insecticide also keeps ticks and lice at bay.

“Unlike ear tags which lose their potency over time, the cattle oiler provides continuous treatment throughout the year,” McPhail says. “And many of our customers keep their oiler baited with mineral supplements or salt so that when the herd come for salt or minerals, they will also satisfy their natural instinct to scratch and get the necessary fly control treatment down to their hide.”

Kropp says he often hears the assumption that a “fly is a fly.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to manage all fly situations. That’s why it is important to select the right product for the threat.

“For pasture cattle, we know that horn flies are the leading external pest threat and should be the primary focus when looking for ways to improve cattle comfort,” Kropp says. “For confined or close grazing situations, all four main fly species are potential threats that require a product geared to controlling all species. Fly education is important for selecting the right tools and application methods needed for specific situations. By properly managing the threat, producers will have more effective control and maximize their financial investment in the long run.”