Warm weather is just around the corner, and with it come flies. Not only are flies a nuisance to both animals and employees, they impact the health and well-being of the animal and cause economic losses that can last a lifetime. Heavy housefly populations can lead to any number of viral and bacterial diseases, such as bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), parainfluenza 3 (PI 3), pinkeye and bacterial scours.
A proactive approach to preventative fly control measures will add to your bottom line and your calves’ health. “Curbing fly populations early in the season is a much more effective approach than trying to control a large and established fly population,” notes Gary Geisler, calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition LLC. Even a small amount of manure can result in an over-abundance of flies.
Geisler recommends utilizing a variety of prevention and management strategies to manage calf housing fly populations – before they get out of control.
“One of the most simple and effective ways to control fly populations is using a feed fortified with a larvicide, such as ClariFly®,” he says. “The advantage to adding a larvicide to feed is that there is no extra labor involved. Feed your calves and heifers as usual and let the larvicide do the work.” Ideally, a larvicide should be introduced 30 days before flies usually begin appearing and should be fed throughout the summer and into the fall.
Feeding a larvicide is safe and compatible with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Specifically, ClariFly® works by disrupting the fly life cycle. The ingested larvicide is expelled from the animal into the manure – where flies often lay their eggs. When the fly larvae hatch they go through three larval stages. ClariFly® breaks the life cycle by not allowing the larvae to molt from one stage to the next. With fewer adult flies able to reproduce, fly populations can be kept in check. As with many feed additives, Geisler highly recommends strictly adhering to the feeding instructions provided by the feed manufacturer.
Beyond introducing a larvicide, Geisler also recommends these five proactive management practices to stay ahead of fly populations:
- Store manure and soiled bedding away from calf housing. Manure is an ideal habitat for the production of flies because they tend to lay their eggs in it. Fly breeding sites can be eliminated by cleaning pens and hutches on a regular basis.
- Keep feed fresh and free of moisture. Molasses, a common feed ingredient, can be a tasty attractant for flies. To keep molasses at a minimum, start calves with a handful of feed and change it every day until they are eating their full allotment. Not only will this decrease the number of flies near calves, it can also prevent feed loss and waste.
- Clip grass and overgrown vegetation. Flies like to hide out in tall grassy areas.
- Avoid any accumulation of feed, manure and water as this will attract flies.
- Manage the fly population with scatter baits as needed. If fly populations really get out of control, use pesticides that kill flies on contact. Remember to always read product labels carefully before applying any pesticide and/or bait.
Begin implementing these tips just before the arrival of warm weather, allowing calves to stay healthy and comfortable. By reducing stress caused from flies your calves can concentrate on eating, resting and growing, which can allow heifers to enter the milking herd at an earlier age.
More excellent advice on controlling flies can be read here as Ann Hoskins, calf and heifer management specialist for Vita Plus corporation, offers additional fly-control strategies for summer.