Controlling flies can give fall-born calves a favorable start

Fall calving season is right around the corner, and with the drought creating hot, dry conditions, producers should begin thinking about fly control for calves that are on the way.

“Flies cause a good deal of losses to cattle producers each year in several ways,” Andy McCorkill, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said. “They spread blood-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, can help carry pink eye from one animal to another and are an all-around nuisance to cattle and humans alike.”

With newborn calves, flies are attracted to the embryonic fluid and can concentrate to the point of creating raw exposed flesh on the calf, which is painful and can become infected. A good momma cow will lessen the risk of fly strikes by properly cleaning her calf and getting it dry after birth. Should fly strike occur, experts recommend fly spray be applied to newborn calves if flies are present on the animal at a high-nuisance level. Screw worm sprays can be used on open wounds to protect from maggot development. Wound salves or creams are useful if infestation has been so great as to expose flesh. Wound dressing can aid to heal exposed flesh and protect against further fly strikes. Navels should be dipped with strong tincture iodine to protect from navel infection and deter fly strikes.

If possible, a fly prevention program should be addressed before calves start hitting the ground – remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Producers may want to consider releasing Fly Predators – tiny parasitic wasps that are harmless to humans, plants and livestock, but that wreak havoc on flies.

The female predator seeks out a host pupa, drills through its cocoon and lays several eggs inside it. The resulting parasitoids kill the pupa by consuming it, Fly Predators can be ordered online and arrive in pupal form. Producers simply sprinkle them around manure piles, feeding areas, barns, compost bins, anywhere where livestock gather.

Once the wasps hatch, they immediately begin to seek out fly pupa to lay their eggs in.

Fly traps can be a useful way to manage the already established adult fly population, so that there are fewer new flies hatched by the time newborn calves arrive. While there are multiple brands and styles of fly traps, the basic principle is the same – each trap has an attractant, and flies are drawn to the trap, fall in or get stuck, and die. Some popular types of fly traps include milk jug fly traps and sticky fly tape.

Another part of managing flies and reducing the population is not giving them an adequate habitat. Being proactive with disposal of manure and afterbirth, not letting water sources stagnate, and not overcrowding calving areas will greatly reduce the fly population and make pest control practices more effective.

Leaky water troughs, wet hay or straw, spilled feed and overgrown vegetation can result in increased fly breeding. Repair of leaky plumbing and faucets and prompt removal of wet hay or straw will aid in preventing large buildups of fly populations. Tall weeds around pens and buildings often hide spilled feed and manure, as well as hamper the drying of wet areas. These sanitation practices are the most effective method of reducing fly numbers and are cost effective compared with the use of insecticides, according to entomology experts with the University of Arkansas Extension.


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