Fly Control in Cattle Herds

Fly control is a critical part of an integrated pest management system and reducing your overall production costs. While there may not be a silver bullet for fly control, there are steps you can take to build a season-long fly control program. 

First, know your flies – house, stable, horn and face. They each have their own characteristics that effect productivity on beef cattle.  

  • House flies have been implicated in the transmission of 65 disease organisms with populations that can burst out of control in a short period of time. 

  • Stable flies have one of the most painful bites of any bloodsucking insect and feeds mainly on the legs and flanks of cattle. 

  • Horn flies are bloodsucking parasites that can be responsible for reduced weight gain, decreased feed efficiency and decreased milk yields. 

  • Face flies spread diseases of the eye because they are constantly feeding on the fluid. In addition to causing tissue damage with their rough spiny mouthparts. 

Next, be thoughtful of when you begin and end your fly control program. Think about 30 days prior to potential emergence, and 30 days after the first frost. 

Finally, know your best management practice. Are you controlling flies through a feed supplement, block, free choice mineral, or tub? Determine the best form for your operation to implement to your program. If using minerals, be sure to implement the following:

  • One mineral feeder per 25 head. Making sure you have enough feeders for your herd provides ample access to mineral for each animal.
  • Place mineral feeders where cattle frequent (e.g. water, bedding areas, loafing areas, high grazing areas, summer shade, etc.). If cattle aren’t eating enough, move the mineral closer to these areas. If they are eating too much, move them further away. Continually adjust as needed.
  • Make sure cattle aren’t craving salt.

Studies have shown that reduced fly populations can improve feed efficiencies. When cattle are less agitated, they stay on feed and are more productive, which can increase your average daily weight gain, milk quality and milk yield.1

1R. L. Byford, M. E. Craig and B. L. Crosby, “A Review of Ectoparasites and Their Effect on Cattle Production,” Journal of Animal Science, Vol.USDA Report 70, p.599.

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