Stop the Flies Before Temperatures Rise – Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus

Posted on April 28, 2015 in
By Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus calf products coordinator
It won’t be long before your time spent feeding calves is clouded with the buzzing of pesky flies swarming around your head.

Getting ahead of the flies will help reduce the population long-term.  According to research from Purdue University, a fly can complete an entire generation – from egg to adult – in as little as 10 days.

Sanitation is a must
Every farm is different, which means controlling 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 have moist, spoiled or spilled organic matter will cut down on flies. Consider where you are putting your calf feed, hay and milk refusals. Dumping them next to the hutches or calf pens will only attract flies and create breeding grounds.

Know the fly
In addition to sanitation, calf raisers can choose from a number of strategies to prevent and control flies. But first, figure out what species of flies are the biggest pests in your situation.  The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association named the following as the four most irritating 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

  • Are most abundant around livestock operations
  • Feed on decaying matter and spoiled feed
  • Lay eggs in rotting organic matter, such as old hay or manure
  • Cause only mild irritation
  • Do not suck blood, but do spread disease

Stable flies

  • Give the most painful bite of all bloodsucking insects
  • Usually rest in trees and shade
  • Are the most serious pest affecting confined animals

Face flies

  • Spend time around mouth and eyes
  • Feed on tears and saliva
  • Can irritate and spread organisms that cause pinkeye

After identifying the fly species, find any locations where you think the larvae (maggots) might be present. These areas tend to be moist environments – such as bedding packed into a hutches or pens – because larvae need moisture to survive.

If you find larvae, open these areas to provide air and sun exposure to dry the facility. If that is not an option, select another strategy to help kill the larvae.

Fly control products
A number of products are useful in fly control, including various chemicals, parasitic wasps, sticky tapes or traps, ear tags, baits, and feed additives.

QuickBayt® and Starbar® offer a variety of baits, sprays and bait strips that are effective and convenient. QuickBayt is formulated with two ingredients to attract flies, but yet contains an extremely bitter ingredient to help prevent ingestion from animals. Starbar also offers a variety of fly traps and fogs.

ClariFly® is another fly prevention and control mechanism. 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 in the manure. ClariFly does its job with little risk to humans or the environment, making it an ideal choice for fly control.

Ideally, this product should be fed at least 30 days prior to flies appearing and fed 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.

In any calf program, it is important to implement a strategy that works for you, your employees and your calves. Keep it simple and easy to use. 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.

Lastly, here are a few reminders to help you control flies on your farm:

  • Keep feeding areas and equipment clean.
  • Keep starter and water fresh.
  • Minimize spills of starter, water and milk around feeding areas.
  • Maintain clean, dry bedding in calf areas at all times.
  • Consider sand bedding where drainage is adequate.
  • Remove or trim any weeds in 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.
  • Implement a fly control program for all areas of your farm.

This article was originally written for the March 5, 2015 issue of Agri-View.

Category: Fly control
Starting Strong - Calf Care