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Fly away

Co-op minerals are cornerstone for effective control plan
Story by Glen Liford; photo by Matt Crisp 3/23/2017

While warmer temperatures are welcome signs of spring, they also bring out pesky flies. These nuisance insects can literally suck profits from a beef cattle operation.

Beef producers should act quickly to get ahead of fly populations, say Co-op officials. The first flies will begin to emerge when daily temperatures reach 65 degrees for a period of two weeks, and as the spring and summer progress, limiting numbers becomes more difficult and less effective.

“For most effective control, producers should begin feeding minerals with insect growth regulators (IGR) before flies start to appear, “ says Royce Towns, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative nutritionist.

The minerals with IGR can serve as the cornerstone of a solid fly control program, says Royce. The addition of other control methods like insecticide ear tags, pour-ons, premise sprays, and backrubbers treated with insecticides will enhance coverage.

Infestations of houseflies, face flies, and horn flies cause cattle severe irritation and other problems. Face flies are the primary means of spreading pinkeye from animal to animal. But horn flies are by far the most serious pest, says Royce. The small, black flies are about the size of a grain of rice and spend the majority of their lives feeding on the back, shoulders, and belly of the host cattle. They may take 20 to 30 blood meals a day by piercing the animal’s hide.

“The flies cause pain and irritation that can make the animals alter grazing patterns and spend valuable energy attempting to dislodge them, which will result in decreased weight gain and loss of milk production,” says Royce.

U.S. Department of Agriculture research estimates that horn flies alone cost the nation’s cattle producers nearly $1 billion per year in lost production.

“I just hate to see cattle being pestered by flies when they’re out grazing,” says Grant Rains, who raises some 50 brood cows and another 10 or so black Herefords on the family farm near Dunlap.  “I also hate dealing with pinkeye.”

To avoid the problems associated with excessive flies, Grant, a member of Southeastern Farmers Cooperative, feeds Co-op Foundation IGR Cattle Mineral with Rumensin beginning in early spring.

“You have to get it out early for best control,” he says. “Results aren’t as positive if you wait.”

After providing the mineral through two feeders to his herd, Grant administers Permectrin pour-on insecticide across the animals’ backs according to label directions as they come in to the pen for hand-feeding. He has also placed backrubbers at the gate where the cattle come in to feed and at the entrance to the creep feeder.

“These extra efforts help me keep the numbers [of flies] down, even though I know I can never eliminate them completely,” says the young beef producer.

The fly control mineral is only one segment of Grant’s mineral program. Admitting he’s a firm believer in the value of a year-round mineral program, he transitions to Co-op Supreme Cattle Mineral (#678) toward the end of summer before calving and breeding season, then feeds Co-op Foundation Hi-Mag Cattle Mineral (#675) until February. He also feeds Pro-Lix® Liquid Feed year-round to help the cattle make the best use of forages and hay.

“My cattle seem to keep a slick, black coat on this program,” says Grant, who works full time as a hydro technician at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Raccoon Mountain dam in addition to his farming activities. “The copper and selenium in these minerals also help my cattle when it comes breeding time. I have been very pleased with their performance.”

“It seems like our cattle look better than they did 20 years ago,” Grant adds. “These minerals have been a great addition to our operation. [Beef production] is a learning process. We try to learn something new every year to improve.”

For producers who want to make the most effective use of Co-op Fly Control Minerals, Royce Towns offers these tips:

• Begin feeding the minerals early in the spring before flies appear.

• Offer minerals in a covered feeder and provide one feeder for every 15 to 20 head.

• Place feeders near watering or loafing areas.

• Check consumption levels throughout the summer, adjusting the location of feeders nearer or farther from water or loafing areas as needed.

• Use appropriate sprays or pour-ons to help reduce fly populations if beginning a program midseason.

Your local Co-op livestock experts can help design a fly control and mineral program to meet the specific needs of any production operation. Contact your local Co-op for additional details.

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