Aside from annoying you as you work around the ranch, flies also irritate and could harm your cattle. But what can you do to keep them away? In this blog, we explore the world of flies, including why they’re drawn to cattle, the harm they could cause, and how to prevent a fly problem from spreading across your property.

Why Do Flies Like Cows?

Why is it so common to see flies on cows — especially around their faces? It mainly comes down to cattle’s secretions. Different fly species, such as face flies and horn flies, are attracted to different parts of your cattle. Face flies are attracted to tears, saliva, and mucus, which can provide protein for egg development. Horn flies, on the other hand, feed on blood or exposed milk, like on a calf’s face. Plus, the manure around your cattle is the perfect fly breeding ground.

Do Flies Harm Cattle?

To humans, flies tend to be more of a nuisance than anything. But flies could have a substantial negative impact on your herd — and your profits. In fact, horn flies alone are estimated to cost the livestock industry more than $1 billion a year. This financial burden can be a significant concern for cattle farmers, making it crucial to understand and address the fly issue.

Irritation and Stress

Flies that feed on blood will bite your cattle to get more of the food source they crave. Face flies may bite around your cattle’s eyes to force more tear production so they can feast on the protein source. All this biting can cause distress for your cows. Constant buzzing and flying around on top of the biting can lead to restlessness.

Weight Loss and Reduced Milk Production

Flies that may be a simple irritant to you can cost you in beef sales or dairy production losses. Irritation and distress can cause your cattle to focus more on dislodging the flies than on essential tasks like eating and ruminating. It’s possible for cattle to lose weight due to the extra stress, and dairy cows might experience decreased milk production.

Spread of Diseases

Flies can also carry harmful diseases and spread them through your herd via their bites. You may find yourself dealing with cattle infected with diseases such as pink eye, bovine leukosis, or summer mastitis, all of which can have severe health implications for your herd. Keeping flies away from your cows is crucial for maintaining their health and preventing the spread of disease.

How to Keep Flies Off Cattle

Now that you understand how harmful flies can be to your herd, it’s time to take action. As a cattle farmer, you have the power to get rid of flies you might already have and prevent new ones from taking over. By implementing the right strategies, you can protect your herd and ensure their comfort and health.

Use Insecticides

Insecticides are a tried-and-true method for controlling flies, and you have a few options when it comes to your cattle. You can try pour-on solutions, ear tags, sprays, and dusts to kill flies and keep them away from your cows. Some insecticides require frequent application or rotation of active ingredients, so choose a solution that fits well into your operational workflows.

Add Fly-Targeting Supplements to Feed

Flies are attracted to manure, so why not target them straight at the source with feed additives containing insecticides? These additives pass through your cattle’s digestive systems and end up in their manure, where flies lay their eggs. The insecticide then kills fly larvae in the manure. This method will help prevent new flies from hatching but doesn’t do anything about adult flies who can easily move between herds. You will likely need to combine feed additives with other methods to truly control flies.

Luckily, Star Blends has the capability to provide a fly control additive to your mix if requested by your nutritionist!

Place Fly Traps and Baits

Fly traps and baits can be an effective method for capturing adult flies. You’ll want to place traps and baits near where your cattle congregate but far enough to attract adult flies away from your cows.

Barn Fans

Barn fans are also a great tool to help keep flies away. With the large wind movement, flies are less likely to be able to hover around your cattle, reducing the irritation stress they can cause. Barn fans are commonly used around feed bunks, resting areas, and milking areas. Fans are also a great way to help cool off cattle on hotter days.

Maintain Environmental Cleanliness

It’s easier to prevent a fly infestation than it is to get rid of one. Cleanliness can reduce the chances of an infestation. Keeping the barns and pens clean, removing spoiled feed, and minimizing wet areas where flies can breed can help reduce fly populations.

Give Your Cattle a Healthy Start to the Fly Battle

Nutrition plays a crucial role in helping your cattle stand up to flies. The proper nutrients support your cattle’s immune systems, making them less vulnerable to fly-related health problems. Star Blends can help keep them fed with custom cattle feed blends. We’ll work alongside your nutritionist to create blends that provide plenty of nutrients to keep your cattle in the best shape possible. We can also add in a feed through fly control to your mix if that is what will work with you and your farm! Contact us today to get started.