Summer’s here: Is your fly control program in place?

Posted on June 13, 2013 in
HoskinsBy Ann Hoskins With this summer’s slow start, it might have been easy to push off fly control for another week.  But it’s June and that means you need to have your strategy in place.  Having an established plan can save you lots of time and energy this summer. According to research from Purdue University, a fly can complete an entire generation – from egg to adult – within as little as 10 days. This is just another reason to be proactive about fly control on your dairy. Every farm is different, which means the way to control flies varies farm-to-farm. That said, sanitation is the method that works best for everyone and has the biggest economic return. Approximately 90 percent of a dairy’s flies will develop in less than 10 percent of its physical area. Therefore, cleaning areas that may have moist, spoiled or spilled organic matter will cut down on flies. Consider where you are putting your calf feed, hay and milk refusals. Some producers will collect all refusals and dump them in an alternate location away from the calves. In addition to cleaning, calf raisers have a number of other ways to prevent and control flies throughout the summer. But first, it is important to figure out what species of flies are becoming pests in your situation. Many different species of flies pester dairy animals, and different methods are more effective at controlling the various species. The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association names these as the four most irritating species of flies for calves:

  • Horn flies
    • Spend most of their time on the animal and take 20 to 30 blood meals per day
    • Point their heads toward the ground, giving them a “V” shape
    • Lay their eggs in fresh manure
  • House flies
    • Most abundant around livestock operations
    • Feed on decaying matter and spoiled feed
    • Lay eggs in rotting organic matter, like old hay or manure
    • Cause only mild irritation
    • These flies don’t suck blood, but do spread disease
  • Stable flies
    • Most painful bite of all bloodsucking insects
    • Usually rest in trees and shade
    • Most serious pest affecting confined animals
  • Face flies
    • Spend time around the mouth and eyes
    • Feed on tears and saliva
    • Can irritate and spread organisms that cause pinkeye

After identifying the fly that is pestering your calves, try to find any locations you think the larvae (maggots) might be present. These locations would be those that have a moist environment, such as bedding packed into a hutch or pen, because they need moisture to survive. Open those areas to allow air/sun exposure and dry the facility. If that’s not an option, use a spray or parasitic wasp to help kill off the larvae. In addition to cleaning these moist areas, a number of products are useful in fly control. These products include various chemicals, parasitic wasps, sticky tapes or traps, ear tags, baits, and feed additives. ClariFly® is another option.  ClariFly is a safe feed supplement that prevents the four most irritating flies from developing and emerging in the manure. The supplement is fed, passes through the digestive system, and is excreted into the manure. ClariFly does its job with little risk to humans and the environment, making it an ideal choice for fly control. Ideally, this product should be fed 30 days prior to flies appearing and fed up until cold weather restricts fly activity in the fall. ClariFly is now offered in medicated milk replacers, add packs (elim-A-fly) for non-medicated milk replacers and pasteurized milk, and dry feed options. Contact iconIt is important to develop a program that works for you, your employees and your calves. Keep it simple. In most cases, one form of fly control will help, but a second form will make all the difference. At certain points, the load of flies may exceed what one product can handle. For tips or advice, talk to your local Vita Plus consultant or dealer. Lastly, here’s a recap as you start your fly control program:

  • Keep feeding areas and equipment clean
  • Keep starter and water fresh
  • Minimize the spilling of starter, water and milk around feeding areas
  • Keep bedding clean and dry
  • Keep any weeds away or cut down from your calf and heifer areas
  • Remove excess bedding and manure immediately after the calf has left the hutch or pen
  • Do not store manure near the calf area
  • Manage fly control in every animal area on the farm

About the author:  Ann Hoskins is the Vita Plus calf products manager.  She grew up on a dairy farm in DeForest, Wis., which she says is instrumental to where she is today.  “The lessons and values I gained growing up in this industry have given me the passion to stay involved and continue to learn more every day.” Hoskins earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has spent that last five years at Vita Plus, working with producers to improve performance and help them reach the goals of their calf operations. 

Category: Cow comfort
Dairy Performance
Feed additives
Fly control