It’s fly season again, and how I hate the pesky little buggers! They bite & bother cow & human alike, and can make farm life miserable. Not to mention, the stress of dealing with flies can actually decrease milk production & weight gain in our cattle. So how do we deal with flies? Here are some things that we have in our arsenal.
As the saying goes, “the best offense is a good defense”, so our first strategy is prevention. We try to eliminate fly “breeding grounds” by cleaning up manure, as well as wet/soiled hay, near the barn. The infamous “manure pile” is in the chicken pen, and the girls happily dig through for bugs & goodies, turning the composting pile in the process. Pastures get dragged to break up manure pats, and we are also happy to see some smaller varieties of dung beetles moving in to do their work. Our plan is to be able to move chickens and/or turkeys around in “chicken tractors”, following the cows in their pasture rotation, so the poultry can do the work of raking out manure pats in the pasture & eating any fly larvae they find, but we haven’t gotten quite that far yet. But without their preferred nice moist manure pats to lay eggs in, the flies don’t get quite so out of control.
We are also strong believers in the beneficial “fly predators”. We have been purchasing & releasing these tiny parasitic wasps for several years, and see that they really work. The adults are harmless to us, but lay their eggs in fly pupae. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the developing fly. This results in a significant decrease in the number of flies hatching out. There are several places you can get fly predators, but we have always ordered from Spalding Labs, and are quite happy with them.
For the adult flies that make it past our defense, we put out those stinky bag fly traps. They’re not pretty & they sure don’t smell good (to us anyway; I guess the flies think they smell great!), but they sure do catch the flies. There are many different options for fly traps, available easily at most farm supply stores, so you can take your pick.
Even with all this, there are still flies on the farm. So we also have some tactics to keep the cows more comfortable. The first is a mineral supplement from Agri-Dynamics, called Flies-Be-Gone. It is high in sulfur & gives the cows an unappealing smell to flies & other ecto-parasites. We have it out free choice, in our mineral feeder, and the cows seem to know when they need it.
I also use a natural fly spray on the cows when they come into the parlor each morning for their snack. The best one I’ve found yet is No-Fly from Crystal Creek, which comes in either an oil-base or water-base. It’s made from all natural essential oils, and smells quite nice. It is a good natural repellent, but it will also actually kill flies if they get a direct hit with it. And I find it very satisfying to see the flies drop to the floor when I spray a cow!
With this varied arsenal we are able to keep flies under control through the summer, which makes EVERYBODY happier.