Home 5 Ag Stories Fighting flies on cattle still a major challenge  

Fighting flies on cattle still a major challenge  

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Flies on livestock have been a problem ever since man began domesticating cattle and the flies found an easy target. Producers have fought flies since the advent of DDT, but only local and limited control of most species has been attained. A scientist talks about two kinds of control that can protect the herd and keep new insect generations from hatching.

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Dr. Gregg Hanzlicek serves as Director of the Production Animal Field Investigations Unit of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University. Dr. Hanzlicek says fly control isn’t just about managing parasite populations. He says it has a real financial impact on producers’ bottom lines, making it an issue of dollars and cents.

In a recent interview – with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network farm director Ron Hays – Dr. Hanzlicek explained how producers can approach the problem that costs ranchers, industry wide, a billion dollars annually on their operation.

During the summer months, cattle may be infested with a variety of external parasitic flies such as Horse-flies and Face flies. But topping producers’ most wanted list are Horn flies. Hanzlicek insists the tool most consider “the front line of defense” is insecticidal ear tags, the best weapon in fighting all three of these species.

“It’s been shown that each one of those flies feeds anywhere from 20 to 40 times a day,” Dr. Hanzlicek said. “That irritation alone has a huge negative impact on the production of these cows.”

While ear tags are typically the most effective at managing fly populations, producers must stay on top of the buildup of resistance in their localized fly populations. Hanzlicek says one way of controlling that aspect is through highly effective pass-through products that target flies once they have left the animal and lay eggs in fresh manure. If you find yourself in a situation where you are not comfortable with deciding what action to take, if the basic measures aren’t showing results, Hanzlicek encourages you to seek the professional advice of your local veterinarian to make recommendations for your specific operation.

“That’s probably one of our better controls for Horn flies,” Dr. Hanzlicek said. “So it’s important we talk about it. It’s important we try to control these external parasites.”