Keep cattle healthy by shooing flies

We all get annoyed by flies, but for cattle the annoyance could have more tangible side effects.

When flies flit around cattle, they often cause the animals to huddle into groups to avoid the pesky insects, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. As the cattle group together, the temperature around them goes up because of their body heat and therefore, their stress levels.

And, just like humans, stress isn’t good for cattle and can lead to weight loss. In one study, calves who had mothers that were protected from horn flies (200 flies or more on average) gained 10 to 20 pounds on average more than those whose mothers didn’t have fly protection, according to the extension.

Dave Boxler, an educator with the extension, notes there are three main types of flies cattlemen should be concerned about:

  • Horn flies tend to hang around the horns and necks of animals, where they feed on blood more than 20 times a day. Their bites may become irritated and can even become infected, according to information from the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture.In addition to affecting growing calves, horn flies also can spread summer mastitis, which affects non-lactating cows, UK notes.
  • Stable flies also feed on cattle’s blood, but typically from the legs of the animal. Cows that are being bitten by these types of flies tend to stomp the ground.These pests can reduce performance as their bites are painful and constantly attempting to get rid of the flies can fatigue cattle, according to Cornell University.
  • Face flies, while not bloodsuckers, are just as bad as they feed on the secretions for the eyes and nose of cattle. This can cause irritation that can lead to infections or even blindness, in severe cases.Although they do not bite, they can still annoy animals, which can cause them to hide or become stressed, which can affect weight gain or milk production, according to North Carolina State University Extension.

In addition to irritating the heck out of cattle, insects such as flies can also be disease vectors and affect cattlemen’s bottom lines with lost productivity. Therefore, proper fly control techniques should be used. Sticky fly ribbons can be effective in managing small to medium fly populations as can other bait traps. Additionally, good sanitation and an understanding of the flies’ life cycles can reduce their population.

Flies’ eggs, larvae and pupae (a.k.a. young flies) can live in damp hay, manure and the like for several weeks. Properly cleaning and disposing of these material cans help reduce the fly population load, according to Cornell. This includes cleaning out bedding and removing damp feed from stalls and mangers.

However, managing the fly population in the pasture is more difficult. Insecticides often are used, but be sure to follow all instructions for their proper use, including mixing directions, treatment schedules, and the like. If unsure, consult a veterinarian.

For information on Neogen’s insect control products, click here.

For more on these flies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, click here.

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