Fly control is always a hot topic when spring finally arrives in Canada. We discuss the negative impact that flies can have on an operation and the options available to combat the problem.
Tom: I’m Tom Martin. And joining us is Reed Van Driesten. He’s Ridley Block Operations’ Canadian account manager, speaking to us from Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. Reed, welcome to Beyond the Barrel.
Reed: Thanks, Tom. Nice to hear you again.
Tom: Are flies a big problem with cattle?
Reed: Yes. It is a billion-dollar problem in North America, in fact. Health issues like pinkeye can be labor intensive and animals need to be treated, which usually involves gathering them in a chute and treating them, or cowboys will use ropes to tie them, if you don’t have a chute in that area. Not to mention, you got the added cost of medication on top of that. And sick cattle don’t generally gain weight, and that’s one of the biggest effects. But also, cows don’t milk, and breeding can be impacted also.
Tom: We’re often asked if garlic fly control works. What’s your take on that?
Reed: The short answer is yes. If the concentrated garlic is ingested at the correct amount, which we’ve done some testing on, it is very effective. I was once asked if it was a snake-oil type product, and this producer tried on half his Charolais bulls, and you can really see the fly line on the back of them white-hided bulls. You know, there was only a fence between the two. And his opinion was that it was 80% less irritation by the flies on ’em due to the garlic, which is fairly good coverage. We had two tests done up at the college just to confirm what we were into. And they come back at over 50% reduction in flies landing on the cattle. They just don’t like the smell of it, is what it is. It’s a deterrent.
Tom: That’s really interesting. So, another product, Crystalyx®, contains Altosid®, which blocks the flies, I guess. What does that do to block the flies?
Reed: That’s a good question, Tom. You know, Crystalyx now has blocks in Canada containing Altosid. It’s a product from Central Life Sciences (CLS) and relatively new to Crystalyx. It’s a very effective way to reduce the flies in the herd, and it works differently than garlic. It’s a product called methoprene that goes through the animal and, when they lay the eggs in the manure pile, prevents the emergence of the horn flies. So it’s a very effective way to control the population.
Tom: When should these fly control products be used?
Reed: Well, in testing, we found that one month before fly season starts. That can change in different timelines of where you live. We have places that still have a lot of snow and obviously flies wouldn’t be an issue yet, but there’s also people that have green grass. And generally, when you start seeing green grass, you’ll see the flies start to show up and then I’ll feed it straight through till the season cools down in the fall.
Tom: What is it, do you think, about fly control that makes it an essential management practice for cattle?
Reed: Well, to state the obvious, Tom, flies are a nuisance. That’s the real reason. Cattle spend the day agitated by these flies and aren’t able to reach their optimal performance potentials. Time and energy that should be spent on grazing instead of swatting away flies and trying to get them off of them. Breeding performance is a concern in regards to mastitis, and bulls are unable to adequately do their job. Flies are also vectors for several diseases and spread bacteria and pests and parasites. Proper fly control helps to ensure overall health and the performance of the herd.
Tom: All right. That’s Reed Van Driesten, Ridley Block Operations’ Canadian account manager. He joined us from Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. And I’m Tom Martin for Beyond the Barrel.
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