Horn flies can cause big problems for cattle and cattle producers. The biting insects feed on the blood of cattle, up to 40 times per day. When flies reach a point of overwhelming numbers, cattle are forced to use high levels of energy to fend flies off; instead of putting their energy into production or growth and reproduction. Poor reproductive performance and calf development are two of the major issues. Studies show horn fly infestations can reduce weaning weights by as much as 25 pounds, reduce growth rates in replacement heifers by up to 14% and reduce daily gains in yearlings and stockers by 0.2 pounds per day. In addition, feeding and grazing patterns are also negatively affected, also resulting in significant weight loss and poor cattle development.
The economic impact of the horn fly problem has been shown to cost the cattle industry over $875 million per year. Foot rot and pink eye are economically damaging as animals affected by one or both conditions can have negative effects on weight gain, weaning weights, reproduction, and milk production. While it is important to properly treat both conditions, it is equally imperative, if not more important to focus on prevention. There can be many causes for both foot rot and pink eye, however fly control is vital. While on summer pasture often flies are the primary problem, and foot rot or pinkeye are the result of improper fly control. We can help you to build a program using supple- ments with Availa 4, IGR, insecticides, and garlic to maximize the fly control for your herd.
One of the first steps is to collect samples of the water as well as the grass to check for any antagonists. Antagonists are a substance or even an excessive about amount of another nutrient which blocks the actions of a vital nutrient. Depending on the results of the samples, we properly formulate supplements with optimal trace minerals using Zinpro Performance Minerals. Zinpro amino acid complexes deliver zinc, copper, manganese, and cobalt in a form which is more available to cattle. This organic form, known as Availa® 4 of these trace minerals is able to override any antagonists in the animal’s diet when properly formulated and balanced. Zinpro’s Availa®4 has research proven results when fed to cattle throughout the year at 7g per head per day.
The best fly control is a minimum of two different fly control modes, preferably three modes. What this means is using one form through feed called Altosid® IGR to control horn flies and face flies by breaking the cycle. Female flies only leave the host (cow/ calf/bull/heifer) to lay their eggs in freshly deposited cow manure. Altosid® IGR passes through the digestive system into the manure, where it breaks the life cycle by keeping the horn fly larvae from developing. Ultimately preventing adult flies from emerging from the manure. The IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) in Altosid® IGR mimics naturally occurring insect biochemicals which are responsible for insect development to interrupt the horn fly life cycle, instead of through direct toxicity. Because of this Altosid® IGR is effective at very small concentrations, no known horn fly resistance, and has no effects on beneficial insects such as the dung beetles. Altosid® IGR is available through several supplements such as: SmartLic Altosid(IGR) tubs, Payback Ultramin mineral+ Altosid, Payback Liquid Feed + Altosid. In my opinion, it is never too late to start Altosid® IGR. Even though you may not see the most benefit of adding Altosid® IGR to your supplement this year, starting it now will help for next year. It is important to keep feeding Altosid® IGR for 30 days after the first frost in the fall, which is usually mid to end of September. This helps to prevent horn fly larvae from overwintering giving you a jump start on the next fly season. The ideal horn fly control program starts by using Altosid® IGR in your feed supplement 30 days before overwintering flies appear in the spring.
In addition to Altosid® IGR, it is also necessary to use a mode which kills or repel the adult flies. There are many options available such as: back rubbers and cattle oilers; dust bags; topical pour-on, VetGun capsules (VetCap) and sprays; fly tags, etc. When it comes to using these methods of fly control it is important to properly rotate between drug classes of these products. A proper rotation between drug classes for example is rotating between permethrin and organophosphates. Be careful when using a generic product as it could be the same or similar active ingredient and still be in the same drug class, which is not a true rotation and could lead to resistance problems.
The third mode available at most Southwest Grain locations is the Payback Salt with Garlic. Contact your local SWG to see if they have Cobalt salt with garlic or Trace Mineral EDDI with garlic. These two formulas can be offered in a block form or loose bag salt. It is important to remember this mode of action is not fly control and does not replace fly control such as Altosid® IGR. As the cow/calf consumes the garlic, the garlic will build in the blood system and deter the fly. Using garlic is a fly repellant. Think of garlic like us using mosquito spray to repel mosquitoes. Garlic will not kill adult flies, nor will it break the life cycle. Instead, it is best to use garlic in addition to the two modes of fly control. Also keep in mind, currently there is no proven research on the benefits and effects of garlic. There is only trials and a lot of unknowns at this time regarding garlic use in livestock. Use garlic as an additional step to your fly control program, not a replacement. If you have questions about proper rotations or fly control, contact myself or your feed and animal health consultant at the nearest Southwest Grain location. We can help you to create a plan that works for your operation using multiple methods of fly control with proper rotation. Keep in mind fly control will never be 100% (or no flies at all) but with consistent implementation, the flies can be controlled to a minimal level that does not cause as many problems for the cattle, especially reducing the incidence of foot rot and pink eye. Always remember the 30-30 rule to start Altosid® IGR: 30 days before fly emergence and keep Altosid® IGR: 30 days after first frost. A strong fly control program is the cornerstone to keep cattle comfortable while on summer pasture. Enjoy the rest of summer and have a safe harvest! Thank you!
Livestock Nutrition & Animal Health Specialist
New Salem & Elgin