Get the Jump on Flies and Other Nasty Parasites
Get the Jump on Flies and Other Nasty Parasites
By Will Winter
The humorous poet Ogden Nash wrote it perfectly, "God, in all his wisdom created the fly, and then he forgot to tell us why!".
I once believed that a big part of perfect livestock happiness would be to have the ultimate "Silver Bullet" drug to instantly remove all flies from the farm. But now I don't believe that this is the solution. Animals that require drugs to live and breed, have become literal "drug addicts" and that just leads to more and more problems. So what we want is to create a farm and a herd that have an inner and natural immunity to parasites of all kinds.
For most of us who live with four seasons, it's best to begin the fly reduction program as early in the spring as possible. If you wait until you have flies, then some sort of quick knock-down becomes an essential part of the program. Luckily we have that too! By getting the jump on things it's just a matter of reducing the hotbeds where flies breed, and then, more importantly, making the animals totally undesirable to parasites.
The Worst Kinds of Flies
STABLE FLY (Stomoxys Calcitrans): They are usually found on the legs of livestock and are about 2/3 the size of a house fly. They cause irritation and spread disease. They will cause an average loss of 2-5% of daily gains.
HORN FLY- (Hematobia irritans): Very small, about ½ the size of a stable fly. Usually found on the head around the horns and especially over the shoulders and back. All biting flies carry diseases including TB, Bovine Leukemia, Anthrax, Pinkeye, Mastitis and more. Each one bites 20-40x a day, just 200 flies will reduce milk production by 20% and ADGs by 1/4- 1/2 pound per day.
FACE FLY- (Musca Autumnalis): Carries Moraxella bovis, the pinkeye bacteria, and one of the most economically devastating flies, averaging $25-33 per head, per year.
Note that every insect in the world has antennaes. These devices are for locating hosts (i.e. "food") which they will parasitize. All living creatures, plants included, emit tiny electronic signals which are like radio waves picked up by parasites. When we are healthy and have a strong immunity, the signals say, "stay away!" whereas sick, devitalized or malnourished plants and animals send the signal that says, "I'm defective, I'm food, come on down!". You will never need to kill the parasites or flies, you just need to create a farm with nothing to eat and the flies will go away. There's not enough poison in the world to kill all the parasites. If you have sick and weak animals, the flies will find you.
Parasites are a farm problem, not an animal problem. Therefore, everything must be taken into consideration. Like all infectious diseases, there isn't a parasite problem that can't be tracked back to some sort of nutritional deficiency or imbalance. The main areas we will examine and correct are NUTRITION, MANAGEMENTand GENETICS, although everything is related.
10 Major Ways to Prevent and Cure:
1) GET CHICKENS, DUCKS, GEESE OR GUINEAS: These efficient eaters of larvae, pupae and adult insects can cleanse a farm of parasites! Therefore, it's important to understand the life cycle of the flies on your farm. For example, flies such as horn flies, face flies and stable flies that lay their eggs in fresh manure, you'll want to run the birds 7-10 days after the cattle have run in the paddock. This will maximize catching them as larvae and pupa and they will be gone. Domestic birds also scratch through the manure and do an excellent job of spreading and drying out the manure. Flies won't hatch in dry manure, so moisture loss helps prevent fly population explosions. Traveling "egg mobiles" or "chicken tractors" as well as portable electric feather netting are great ways to move populations of birds behind livestock.
2) GET NATURAL FLY PREDATORS: Many insects such as spiders, wasps and "robber" flies (Promachus Rupifes) eat and destroy various aspects of the fly life cycle. Some organic farmers and ranchers say, "never kill a spider" because most of them are killing machines for thousands of parasites. There are also great benefits to be had by cultivating populations of lizards, toads and frogs; which live on a diet of insects.
3) INCREASE THE WILD BIRD POPULATION: We are most interested in insect-eating species such as barn swallows, purple martins, and bluebirds. By building species-specific houses the population will expand. Martins love the big bird condos. I’ve been on farms with a bluebird nest on every other fencepost. You can also buy fiberglass barn swallow adobe houses to attach to the barn walls.
4) NURTURE DUNG BEETLES: No fly reduction plan can be complete without learning how to nurture the dung beetle population. This will require (one) to stop using all chemical wormers. Ivomec doesn't kill many worms anymore but destroys dung beetles in the manure. Once you quit using wormers the beetles will find you. You can speed things up by bringing in manure from another farm with healthy beetles. They exist from the Arctic to the Antarctic and there are hundreds of species. Some are smaller than ladybugs; others as big as June bugs. It's good to have all sizes and species.
5) USE OILERS, MISTERS OR DUSTERS: Surprisingly, organic and non-toxic essential oil repellents work the best. Get a product like Grass Farmer Supply's ECTO-PHYTE, dilute it between 1:4 and 1:9 depending on fly population and spray it onto the backs, legs and faces of the herd. Repeat it as needed but try to get more of the oil-repellent mix onto canvas oilers and put them all over the farm. Every farm supple house has various models. The FLY KILLER KOVERs fit over the top of the 3 hopper mineral boxes and enable the livestock to self-medicate every time they hit the minerals. Avoid strong pesticides as they weaken the animal, making them even more prone to parasite overload.
6) UTILIZE FLY TRAPS: Traps really work and they destroy fly populations quickly. The walk-through traps can be home-made, the plans easily available on the internet or from the University of Missouri for around $2.50. These traps work best for dairy cows. The Epps trap is a pasture trap that uses bait to lure flies.
7) MANURE MANAGEMENT: As stated before, most of the most damaging species of flies lay their eggs and hatch from manure. The manure must be moist for the eggs to hatch. By spreading, harrowing or using chickens to spread the manure, no hatch can occur. When manure is stacked into compost heaps it may be necessary to cover the piles to prevent fly breeding. The best breakdown of manure comes from vibrant soil biology which rapidly breaks it down. Barn lime can be used as well.
8) MINERALS AND GOOD BROWSE: The best source of the minerals that strengthen the immune system and therefore repel all forms of parasites including flies is a good polyculture biodiverse browsing/grazing menu. Weeds of all forms contain tannins, alkaloids and natural plant "medicines" that flies hate. If the soil or the land is missing minerals (and most are) then the lack must be made up from bagged free-choice minerals. To repel flies use a high-quality mineral, like CRAFTS-MIN ORGANIC ALL-IN-ONE. This excellent blend has 5% sulfur, 800 ppm iodine, 5000 ppm copper, and 130 ppm natural selenium, in addition to the other well-balanced minerals. Grass Farmer Supply also makes an add-pack called SALT BUDDY that is 60% sulfur with 9000 ppm iodine to "spike" the salt giving the livestock the extra seasonal protection they need (for flies in the summer and lice in the winter). Just add one 10# bag to 100# of your favorite salt and leave it out throughout the entire fly season.
9) APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: One of the best ways to knock fly populations. The animals typically love drinking it plus it has dozens of other health benefits. The increased feed efficiency it delivers, pays you to give it! Nothing else can say that. We use ACV to help them get rid of other parasites as well. Works on every species of livestock including birds and horses. The best way to give it during a fly strike is to offer it free-choice in a rubber tub mixed half and half with water. The more stricken animals will drink more but none of it will be wasted. Contact us for more information about where to get it and how to use it.
10) GENETICS: After a while it might be noticeable that one or more of the weaker, scroungier animals are getting more worms, more flies and more problems. These animals should be culled on this basis especially if you have tried all the techniques above. Not only do these animals drag down the rest of the herd, but they also create more weak genetic animals in their offspring, thus you never bring the health of the overall herd up to parasite-resistant animals
BONUS: There are a few farms that have unique and potentially toxic environmental issues that confound all the reasonable attempts to cure problems with natural cures. The ranchers seem to be "doing everything" but the problems remain. These might include stray voltage, EMF transmission lines, contaminated ground or well water, excessively high iron levels in the water or forages, moldy feed or mold in the feed bunks or hoppers, herbicide or pesticide contamination, or other toxic influences. When reasonable methods do not get results, we then begin testing to find hidden sources of immune damage.
Also, flocks or herds that have had years of dosage with fly poisons and wormers will become weaker and weaker every year, creating a virtual addiction to poisons, wormers, fly sprays, vaccines and antibiotics just to stay alive. Regular dosage with wormers and fly poisons enable virtually every animal to stay alive and even breed more of the same. The rancher is unable to determine the weak genetics and eliminate them so they continue to pollute the herd. Plan to never buy poisonous insecticides again. This natural plan really works!