Effective Pest Control Strategies Critical Component in Overall Strategic Program

Published on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 1:52pm

During the past couple of years we have seen the economy negatively impact the profitability of many cattle operators across the country. And, while the outlook has been slowly improving, there is still a combination of factors that have many on edge. However, by continuing to implement sound cattle management practices and be as proactive as possible in their comprehensive pest control strategies, operators will weather the storm and they and their cattle will thrive despite the challenges.
Herd Health Management Practices
Healthy and robust cattle herds are dependent on a multitude of factors, and the unfortunate tendency on the part of some producers is to cut costs in the health and nutritional management of their herds. This may include altering primary and supplemental feed sources, or reducing or eliminating mineral supplementation programs. These play key roles in maintaining optimum performance and profitability of beef and dairy cattle, and severe corner cutting will jeopardize future return on investments.
In tandem with feed and mineral supplementation strategies, there are additional considerations for sound management practices among cattle. Regular pest control solutions, monitoring environmental factors and education on disease prevention and control also determine success.
Pest Control Strategies Critical Even in Lean Times
Pest control programs may be one of the most easily overlooked components in cattle management practices, especially during lean periods where cost cutting comes into play. However, effectively controlling pests that threaten the health and profitability of cattle is more than an add-on tactic, it is a mandatory program component.
In cattle, bovine respiratory disease and anaplasmosis are conditions that cause widespread economic repercussions to the industry. And while these afflictions are severe, neither of these is the greatest threat to pastured cattle. Instead, with a detrimental impact of more than $1 billion per year according to the USDA, the horn fly is North America’s most pervasive and costly external cattle parasite.
The small, black flies, most populous in early summer and during a second fall peak, are only about 4mm long but deliver an efficient, painful bite. Both males and females are blood feeders that remain on cattle day and night, allowing for around-the-clock activity. Adult flies can live two to four weeks, mate on animals and only leave to lay eggs in fresh manure less than five minutes old.
Without proper control, horn flies are more than a simple nuisance. Horn flies feed up to 20 to 30 times per day.  Potential fly infestations can reach 4,000 flies on an untreated cow, causing 80,000 to 120,000 bites per day. Their continual presence during peak seasons leads cattle to kick, stomp, sling their heads and swish their tails in an attempt to dislodge them, and sores can lead to secondary cattle infections.
Horn flies can also cause a trickle-down effect because afflicted cattle drink more water, thus increasing urine output, which leads to nitrogen loss. In order to replace the lost nitrogen, cattle must consume more protein, something that is difficult to do when the flies are causing reduced grazing and less grass consumption.
Resulting weight loss can also be severe, and according the Journal of Animal Science, stocker cattle can incur a 14% reduction in average daily gain over a 120-day fly period. Considering that horn flies can cause 15 lbs. to 50 lbs. of weight loss per head of cattle during the summer season, at approximately $ .90 per pound, a 30 lb. weight loss results in an average loss of $27 per head. Moreover, gains on grazing yearlings could be reduced by as much as 33 lbs., which is a significant percentage of body weight.
“There are widespread challenges for today’s cattle producers that stem largely from forces beyond their control such as fluctuating feed and mineral costs, weather factors and a weakened overall economy,” said Tracy Harris, Director of Sales, Central Life Sciences, whose founders invented insect growth regulator (IGR) technology more than 30 years ago.
“However, implementing effective pest control strategies to reduce or eliminate parasites such as horn flies is something producers can easily control. The outcome of turning strong, healthy cattle is well worth the ongoing investment, and making smart management choices like this can protect a herd’s health and profitability in the long term.”
Central Life Sciences’ Role in Effective Pest Control Solutions
Manufacturers of pest control solutions, working closely with distributors and cattle operators around the country, are continually striving to provide products that will be effective and prove valuable despite the challenging market conditions. The founders of Central Life Sciences invented insect growth regulator (IGR) technology more than 30 years ago, and the company’s horn fly control feed-through product, Altosid® IGR, is one example of an effective solution for horn fly control.
Altosid® IGR is an insect growth regulator used in feed or mineral supplements that passes through the cattle and into the manure, where the horn flies lay their eggs. It breaks the horn fly life cycle by preventing pupae from developing into biting adult flies, which left untreated, can number in the thousands per head. The active ingredient in Altosid® IGR, (S)-Methoprene, mimics naturally occurring biochemicals in the horn fly responsible for development, and in 25 years of use, there have been no known cases of fly resistance.
“Central Life Sciences has been providing effective horn fly solutions to cattle operators for many years and over many market cycles, and we’re very sensitive to the conditions and economic challenges they face today,” Harris said.
He continued, “Ideally, though, proactively managing cattle herd through pest control and other health programs are aspects that will allow operators to sustain their operations and weather the cyclical storms that naturally occur in the industry.”
Pest control experts agree that simply treating horn flies during the hot summer months is not an effective strategy in ensuring herds that are fly-free. Harris recommends taking what’s called the 30/30 approach: Treatment should begin 30 days before fly emergence to be prepared for the flies that have overwintered in cattle pastures, and continue 30 days after the first frost to help reduce any horn fly pupae from overwintering.  Harris stresses, though, that even if operators do not start product application during the early spring season, beginning a treatment schedule mid-season is still necessary.
“If operators are beginning mid-season, the best approach is to begin feeding mineral with a product like Altosid® IGR for approximately one week, and then spray cattle with an adulticide to knock down any remaining or newly emerged adults.”
He said that if no adulticide is applied, populations will begin to decrease in three to four weeks. “One major benefit is that even beginning a program mid-season and continuing 30 days past the first frost will minimize the number of overwintering pupae and give the producer a head start for the next year.”
There is no denying that cattle operators face tough choices during these lean economic times, but viewing the large-picture, long-term strategy for managing cattle and ensuring healthy herds will lead to sustainable profitability and a competitive market edge.