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Why fly control this year is important

Why is your cow herd’s fly control program becoming so important?

The fly season has started in the southern US and will soon be working its way north as temperatures begin to warm up.  There are several reasons why proper fly control can help increase your cow-calf returns primarily by impacting final calf weights.  This can be a result of several factors like improved health, less energy expended on non-productive activities, cattle behavior, etc.  More on these in a minute.  The new VFD Veterinary Feed Directive may change how cattle producers had been typically supplementing their cattle on grass.  This makes fly control this summer even more critical to manage.

So what has changed and why are non-medicated supplement options suddenly important?

Previously, the use of medications was fed for a number of different label claims and included disease control for Anaplasmosis, as well as other reasons when building pasture supplements.  There was tremendous flexibility when hand feeding medications on pasture either as the only medicated additive in a supplement or in combination with fly control feed through larvicides.  Without going into too much detail, the use of medicated feeds is now restricted to Veterinary approval and pretty much only for the control of Anaplasmosis with the start of 2017. 

These new restrictions will make it much more burdensome, especially for smaller cow-calf producers that may require smaller quantities, to go through the process of getting a VFD written by their local Veterinarian. These products can be hand fed on pasture or specific formulations can be made available with a “free-choice” clearance.  Read and follow product labels for feeding directions.

There are certainly solutions for these situations, but the extra hassle, expense and knowledge needed to find the right product will leave several producers who typically fed a medicated pasture supplement, looking for other available options.  This is particularly true in areas where Anaplasmosis is not of concern.

What does good fly control offer in addition to reducing flies?

I am not an entomologist and don’t plan on spending much time in describing troublesome flies associated with grazing cattle, but the horn fly is by far the most important offender followed by face flies.  We also know that stable flies and house flies can also be found in and around pastured cattle but they would not be as widespread or impacting, especially when compared to the horn fly.  If you have a horn fly problem, you have irritable cattle.  They are uncomfortable and seek ways to reduce the discomfort.  Therefore you often see them gather up in a tightly packed group in the corner of a pasture to try and reduce their exposure to the blood sucking meals that can number 20 per day per fly.  Horn flies stay primarily on adult cattle, almost all day and will migrate to their underside with high temperatures and during rain events.  It’s hard to shake them.

You can imagine the disruption to what your herd would rather be doing and that’s being out in the pasture selectively grazing a high-quality diet for producing milk and seeing to it that her calf has access to this important dietary component for optimal gains.  But there are more issues that can arise from this “grouping in the corner”, standing in one area and foot stomping in response to unchecked fly populations.  You take a herd that normally is spread out across a pasture landscape and now essentially confine them to one spot for a good portion of the day.  Horn flies can be a direct vector for the spread of diseases such as Anaplasmosis, but they also can spread bacteria in open wounds as well as those associated with Mastitis in dairy cattle.  Cattle that are standing in one location and in such close contact for long periods of time with constant urination and defecation provide an environment that can help spread foot rot, a disease that everyone dreads to see in the summertime as it involves restraining and treating infected cattle.

Face flies are not without their own issues.  Rather than biting, they simply irritate the eye as they feed on the secretions around it.  This irritation and damage to the eye opens it up to pathogens like the bacterial infection from Moraxella bovis, which causes pinkeye in cattle.  It is a highly contagious disease and by combining horn fly irritations that drive cattle in a tightly arranged grouping in the corner, you can see where the environment has been set for a long summer of issues.

Avoiding a long summer starts with good fly control  

If you have made it to the end of this blog, I hope you can see where good solid fly control can really help you, not only with the effects of lost production from what the flies do directly, but also with a number of indirect issues that can come about as a result of what cattle do when faced with large fly populations.  It can easily change their behavior and create an opportunistic environment for other diseases to negatively impact your herd.   All costing you time and money when you would much rather be doing something else in the summer months.  Like water skiing or maybe baling hay…

A feed through larvicide can certainly be your friend and CRYSTALYX® has several options that can target either horn flies alone as the largest offender or four-fly all in one product. Make sure you check with your dealer on product availability in your area.