Pestered To The Point of Elimination

Published on Thu, 05/03/2018 - 10:48am

 Pestered To The Point of Elimination

 By Aly McClure

 "Pest is a relative term when dealing with pasture cattle, anything can be labeled a pest that isn’t a cow, grass, or water.”

When raising cattle your number one priority is to keep your animals calm and comfortable. The development of your herd is so dependent on this that a pest infestation can severely derail your efforts. When cattle become stressed their feed intake is lower and their ability to produce quality milk for nursing calves, or continue growth in a feedyard declines as well. Pests can make your animals more susceptible to diseases by weakening their immune systems.  But, pest is such a relative term when raising cattle on pasture, anything can be labeled a pest if it isn’t a cow, grass, or water. So what do we do? By implementing pasture management programs and effective cattle health programs you can protect your herd from the majority of issues caused by pests.
Taking the best care possible of our cattle is a great responsibility, one that not only affects us and our herd but the agriculture community as a whole. We are one team with the same goal - to efficiently and ethically produced food, clothing, and by-products for the use and enjoyment of consumers. By creating a comfortable environment for your cattle, you are not only insuring steady growth and production, but it is also the right thing to do.
Because of overuse of pesticides in the recent past, pest populations have developed resistance to them and inadvertently destroyed natural enemies. Today, cattleman should carefully consider the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPMs) programs. Depending on your location and operation type (conventional, organic, grass-fed, etc.) you may have different pest concerns but, in general, they should all look very similar. By studying the variety of options, you have to control pests and creating a plan to implement them, you are saving yourself time and money. Preventative measure go a long way.
When creating an effective IMP, there are several aspects to consider for inclusion in your policy as standard procedure.
• Pasture maintenance and mowing down overgrowth helps to reduce mice and snakes.
• Flood area drainage helps to control insect breeding grounds.
• Keeping feed equipment and storage facilities clean and tidy eliminates pest feeding grounds.

• You can take multiple approaches to reducing the population, combining them is a very effective method. You can use traps, repellants, dusting powders, parasites, and chemicals.
Using parasites is an interesting and effective measure for controlling pest populations. Most every insect pest has a parasite enemy that will attack them. Insect parasites are generally host-specific wasps or fly’s. Most are so small you will not be able to see them and won’t cause an issue in an already pesky environment. An effective way to quickly reduce populations, an adult parasite can lay hundreds of eggs in hundreds of hosts. The parasitic larva lives in/on their chosen host and kills them only once that have reached maturity.
When you are dealing with an infestation such as mange, it is very important to segregate the infected cattle from the rest of the herd. Mange is highly contagious and will spread through direct contact with the cattle. It is caused by mites that live in the pores of the animal’s skin. After isolating the animals, it is in the best interest to sell or slaughter the affected ones. At very minimum, immediately removing them from your herd. Mange is a reportable disease caused by pests and it is advised to contact a veterinarian for consultation as soon as possible.
Using insecticides on your cattle and pesticides on your pastures and feeding facilities will take you a long way for control and prevention.
There are many resources on the internet that can be used to create your IPM, using standards specific to your operation. You can also go the route of hiring an IPM coordinator to develop and initiate your plan.
By using a combination of pest controls, you will have greater chances of success. But, failure to control pests not only affects your cattle, but it can also cause health concerns for the public either through your product or in the shared environment. While we will never fully eliminate pests, nor do we want to, it is possible to reduce their presence to provide a comfortable environment for your cows.