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Posted: 04/17/2023
Three beef cows covered in flies

Your #1 Guide for MAXIMUM Insect Control

Stressful. Dangerous. Costly. These are just a few ways to describe flies and insects and the burden they create for livestock operations each year. If you’re getting a jump on your insect control program, we’ve pulled together some insights that can help you maximize your efforts. Read on to learn about effective fly control options to consider, and how multiple methods will be key to success.

Dairy cow covered in hundreds of flies

Small Pests Bring Big Problems

In a 30-day life cycle, a single house fly can lay 1,000 eggs. When the eggs become adult flies and emerge from the manure they were deposited in, they tend to travel less than half a mile. This means the fly population can increase very quickly and with it, comes an entire host of potential problems.

Flies have transmitted more than 65 diseases to humans alone, so imagine the damage they’re doing to livestock, as well as the consumer meat and dairy products. For instance, horn flies spread mastitis and face flies spread pinkeye. Treating these infections can be lengthy, costly processes involving extra man hours and antibiotics, but that’s just the beginning. Flies and insects can also take an economic toll on cattle operations through reduced weight gains, lower milk production and less grazing efficiency – among other issues. In fact, horn flies alone cost the U.S. cattle industry more than $1 billion each year. These are often thought to be the biggest nuisance to cattle on pasture. The good news is, there are many options for reducing these populations and preserving your profits.

What is the Most Effective Fly Control for Cattle?

Maximum fly control requires multiple methods. Before you consider any of them, think about the success of your previous fly control programs. Your needs may vary from operations located in different parts of the country, or even down the road. For example, if your pasture is near a waterway or you see regular rainfall, you can expect to deal with more face flies. In that case, insecticidal ear tags and/or dust bags may make more sense for your herd to treat faces directly.

Generally, the top 4 most popular fly control options include:

  • Dust Bags & Shake-Ons: insecticide dust gets released when cattle touch the bag; ideal interaction happens daily with bags, or directly apply by shaking dust on the animal regularly
  • Insecticidal Ear Tags: slow-release insecticides on tags worn by the animal
  • Pour-Ons: a topical insecticide applied directly on the animal, but needs repeated regularly
  • Feedthroughs: these products mix with animal feed and ultimately stop fly larvae from fully developing in the animal’s manure
Farmers often consider additional options, like:

  • Aerosols: insect repellent spray for animals and facilities
  • Sprays & Concentrates: surface sprays for facilities and spaces where insects congregate
  • Scatter Baits: these insecticide pellets are scattered around livestock facilities and inside traps to attract flies and kill them quickly
  • Tapes, Traps & Ribbons: Flies and other pests are attracted to the insecticide in these often sticky products and die upon contact

Top Selling Products for Each Method

Dust Bags & Shake-Ons
  • The Prozap Empty Dust Bag is a durable canvas bag with an inner layer of burlap that ensures consistent uniform application as animals walk under the bag. Use with Prozap Permethrin Dust Bag Refills to control horn flies and lice on horses, swine and cattle. It also controls fleas, ticks and lice on dogs.
  • Use the shaker can or a dust glove to apply Prozap Insectrin Dust to your animals. Use varies by animal weight, so read labels carefully and repeat as instructed.
Insecticidal Ear Tags
  • The Y-Tex Insecticidal Ear Tag Rotation Program delivers consistent fly control with just one pinch. The 4-year rotation strategy prevents insecticide resistance because the tags include three different insecticides.
  • Ultra Boss Pour-On Insecticide helps control horse, stable and black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks on cattle, sheep, horses and dairy goats. There’s no slaughter withdrawal or milk discard, and one gallon treats 229 550-lb cattle.
  • The Prozap LD-44Z Farm Insect Fogger quickly kills and repels several kinds of flies and other insects. The LD actually stands for “lethal dose” so this product means business. It can be used in and around beef cattle operations, dairy farm milk parlors, loafing sheds and holding lots, plus other barns and stables, kennels, etc.
Sprays & Concentrates
  • Agita 10 WG Insecticide is a dust-free, water dispersible insecticidal bait formulation. It reduces house fly populations in and around the outside perimeter of animal housing with a unique active ingredient that works quickly within the insect’s nervous system. Learn more about other fly bait options and additional products like this.
Scatter Baits
  • Golden Malrin Fly Bait contains muscamone attractant to encourage both male and female flies to remain in treated areas. Just 4 oz covers 500 feet around the outside of facilities (including feedlots, broiler houses, canneries, meat, poultry and other food processing plants), but the bait can also be used inside bait stations.
Tapes, Traps & Ribbons
  • Hang this sticky, 30” Fly Catching Ribbon from the ceiling with the provided thumbtack to trap flies on the adhesive strip.
As always, please read product labels carefully for complete dosage instructions.

Sanitary Practices Matter, Too

Control products are important in your insect control program, but so is sanitation. In fact, routine maintenance and sanitation will make a big difference in limiting insect population growth, which is far more cost effective than trying to reduce a heavy infestation.

Consider these sanitation practices for a proactive approach:

  • Clean manure out of livestock pens regularly
  • Keep manure spread thin outdoors to reduce larvae through drying
  • Get rid of wet hay and straw bales
  • Ensure accurate drainage in animal facilities (and avoid leaky troughs)

Create Your Complete Fly Control Program

Protect your livestock and profits from flies and other insects with products from PBS Animal Health. We created product comparison charts for your reference to help as you create the best total insect control program for your farm. You’ll see categories for each of the methods outlined above, notes on which products are safe for which animals, and which pests the product helps protect against.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article, and all other articles by pbsanimalhealth is for informational purposes only. This article may have been prepared from multiple sources at the time it was written and is not intended to be used as a sole source of information in making any purchase or specific product use decision. We recommend you always consult with your attending veterinarian to properly diagnose any health-related condition before initiating any prevention or treatment program. Always read and follow each product’s current label instructions and Warnings before use.

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