Here in the North part of the country we have said goodbye to frozen ponds, sub-zero nights, and frostbitten extremities.  For the next few months we are prepared to bask in the sun and enjoy working and playing outdoors (minus the twenty pounds of clothing we’ve been forced to wear since last October).  Livestock are also welcoming this change by shedding their winter coats and getting their first taste of fresh, non-harvested feed for the year.  All seems well, but there is a dark spot looming on the barn wall…  Closer inspection reveals a winged six-legged abomination with bulging eyes and a taste for excrement.  It’s a fly.  The first of millions that are preparing an all-out assault on our homes, barns, sheds, barbeques, and fishing holes.

Flies and other insects can make an outdoor event unpleasant- often downright unbearable for us during the spring and summer months.   While they are a common nuisance to anyone, to a farmer flies can cost thousands of hard-earned dollars.  Insects can spread diseases such as pink eye from animal to animal.  They pollute buildings, windows, pipelines, milking equipment and relentlessly vex livestock.  The stress they cause animals can result in decreased production and/or performance.  Dairy cows and goats give less milk if they are constantly harassed by biting flies.  Beef cattle, swine, and meat goats drop in feed intake resulting in inferior daily gains.  Show animals become harder to train and their coats may become damaged due to constant scratching and biting.  As such, flies must be controlled if we are to have happy, productive animals.

I have been on thousands of different farms; dairy, beef, swine, poultry, goat, water buffalo (yes, water buffalo)…  And not one of them was without some type of pest problem.  To control flies, owners and operators must perform an assessment of their grounds to see what can be altered and improved to lessen the amount of flies and the conditions in which they thrive.  Most farms are a fly’s dream: plenty of water, ample manure and animals to feast on, and endless places to nest and lay eggs.   Just a few changes can lessen the fly burden on your grounds:

- Clean up the place!  Old tires and other garbage collect water and in turn become breeding grounds for flies.

- Fill in pot holes or low spots in the ground where water tends to collect.

- Manure should be managed properly and stored as far away from animal housing as is practical.

- Keep enclosed areas well ventilated, as flies typically will not linger in breezy environments.

- Bedding and feeding areas must be kept as clean and dry as possible.

Once you have made your facilities as uninviting to flies as possible, you can take your battle with the insects to the next level.  Fly control products are numerous, and it can be very difficult to determine which ones are best for your operation.  There are basically two types of fly control products:  those that repel insects and those that kill them.  Repellents used alone keep flies at a comfortable distance and work well for short term situations such as shows, fairs, or transportation.  If the animal is only spending a few days or a week in a particular spot, repellents can be handy and effective.  When dealing with permanent housing such as your barn, shed, calf hutches, or stables a repellent may just move the fly problem from one area to another.   Insecticide products either kill the fly on contact or with products like QuickBayt fly bait attract flies and kill them when they consume the product (within seconds).  Attract and kill products can be spread or sprayed wherever flies are present and are very effective.  One example is a dairy farmer who filled an ice cream pail with 1 inch of QuickBayt® and cut some holes in the lid.  He placed the bucket in his milk house and after a week had collected half a bucket of dead flies.  This method controlled the flies in his milk house and made clean up a snap!

Each operation requires an assessment of their facilities to determine what works best for them.  Once you have improved the environment as much as possible, I suggest a combination of insect repellents and killers.  Pour-on or spray-on repellents applied directly onto the animal will keep the flies off their backs, resulting in a much happier and productive animal.  Premise sprays, fogging, attract-and-kill products and certain fly bombs are effective in lessening the actual insect load on your property.  Keep these things in mind and remember: the sooner you implement a fly control plan the less likely it is that one fly on the barn wall will become millions!