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Get ahead of fly season with pest-control plans

Before pastures begin to green up is the time to start planning for parasite control and preparing cattle for turning out on grass. Don’t wait until pests begin appearing before you implement your plan of attack.

Flies, grubs, lice, ticks and worms lower animal performance, which can be costly. Controlling these pests can have a positive economic impact on your livestock operation. In MFA territory, fly control should be a key focus of your parasite man­agement plan.

Nationally, horn flies are the external pests that cause the greatest economic losses, costing producers some $1 billion annually. Horn flies are often present for more than half the year, and their feeding causes skin irritation, anemia, decreased feed intake, reduced weight gains and diminished milk production. Horn flies have also been implicated in the spread of summer mastitis. A common cost of horn flies on grow­ing cattle is 0.2 pounds average daily gain or 1.5 pounds per week. For nursing calves, fly control on cows will increase weaning weights by about 15 pounds.

You can get a head start on fly season by doing a little early “spring cleaning.” Eliminate potential breeding areas by removing leftover hay and other spilled feeds from winter feeding. Till the areas around bale feeders to help dry these spots. Clean facilities, particularly areas with manure, to eliminate potential breeding grounds, and ensure standing water is limited to what is necessary.

Once warmer weather arrives, there are several effective options for fly control. A multi-faceted approach that lasts throughout the season is always recommended for best results. Insecticide ear tags, available through MFA Animal Health, are a good, simple control option. Usually fly tags should be placed in late spring when fly counts reach a threshold such as 50 flies per side. Tag in mid-May or even June to get the best use out of the tag later in the grazing season. July and August tend to be particu­larly heavy horn fly months.

Oilers or dusters can be used during peak fly season. They need to be located at mineral sites or wa­ter tanks where a producer is sure every animal will walk underneath the oiler or duster for fly protection. Often this is a preferred method for cattle in a quick pasture rotation.

Cattle can also be sprayed with insecticides periodically while out on pasture. This needs to be repeat­ed frequently, and the protection is prone to loss due to rain. Always follow label directions.

Pour-on treatments can conve­niently be applied when animals are being run through handling equip­ment or in alleys. Again, always follow label requirements.

Feed-through products, such as Altosid IGR (insect growth regula­tor) in MFA Ricochet minerals, are particularly effective for flies that grow in manure. IGRs provide a tremendous advantage because they control the insects’ development so they don’t mature. Horn flies are particularly vulnerable to feed-through pesticides.

In addition to horn flies, stable flies and horse flies also irritate cattle and reduce animal perfor­mance. Stable flies generally will be found on the legs of cattle. They live in decomposing vegetation and tend to show up earlier in the year than horn flies. Good sanitation is effective in interrupting the stable fly’s life cycle.

Horse flies are tough but import­ant to control because they can transmit anaplasmosis. The females are the blood feeders, and they have a relative short time that they feed. Horse flies tend to be close to water because their larvae develop in semi-aquatic environments. Using a pyrethroid product and fly traps can be helpful.

When considering pest manage­ment, worm control is important, too. Endectocides treat both internal and external parasites, so a pour-on dewormer will also control flies. It is important to use the product appropriately and always follow label instructions. Treating internal parasites improves immunity, which leads to improved feed consump­tion and conversion. Deworming cows in the spring prior to turnout helps keep infestations down.

Check with the livestock special­ists at your MFA or AGChoice loca­tion to help plan a comprehensive control program before pests start bugging your herd this year.

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