Every year there are numerous articles about fly control. All of them revolve around using some kind of gimmick for control. Now it’s no mystery why these freebee publications will only write about gimmicks that siphon money out of the pockets of cattle producers. It helps them sell advertising space. They probably also don’t realize there is another way: well managed grazing
I know there are people that read this and want me to provide research to back my claims. I don’t care for scientific research, no matter who conducted it. Here is why, science only tells us how we should act if we want to attain definite ends. So for that research to worth a hoot my cattle, the flies, the weather, and other factors in nature must all act a certain way. Ha! Good luck with that.
Here is what happened for me with better managed grazing. I started putting my cattle into groups of 200 head or more. I use poly wire to split the pasture into smaller grazing cells, and rotate daily to every third day. Cell size will vary based on terrain and water. I rent several different pastures, that are only a few miles apart. I will rotate around one then load the cattle up and haul them to the next pasture, then rotate around that one. (I haul them because I have to cross two major highways, and am surrounded by irrigated corn with no fences around it and I have no help)
One day when I was hauling cattle from one pasture to the next, I had an extension researcher riding along with me. He did the typical routine of rolling up the window every time I loaded and unloaded. He finally noticed that I was not doing the same, and he remarked that there were not any flies getting into the truck. We then looked at the cattle and there were little to no flies on them!
At first we were only interested in how my new grazing system would affect my grass, now we were both interested in following up on how it would affect my cattle and flies. For the next month I had the same results, until I rotated up against the perimeter fence and the neighbor’s cattle bunched up next to mine. Then I had flies, a lot of them. I also ended up with their bull too, I was running stocker heifers.
After loading the cattle up and then moving to the next pasture I still had the flies for a while. This pasture has no neighboring cattle. I rotated as I needed to and eventually the fly load lessened. I think this is because my grazing system breaks the fly cycle. In the short amount of time it takes for a fly to lay an egg and for that egg to become a fly my cattle are gone away from that area.
I have only done this for two years, and have noticed a big difference in fly control. I mentioned the neighbor’s bull for a reason. Long story short they ended up paying for a preg check on my cattle. That got expensive for them in a hurry. The following year, they didn’t turn their cattle out into that pasture until I rotated away from the perimeter fence. That year I didn’t end up with their flies or their bull. To me that one variable right there is why science doesn’t mean much out here. It proves how other people’s sloppiness can affect your plan.
We all know that parasites can affect cattle performance and their behavior, so I don’t feel I need to get into that, to keep this short as possible. I do feel that I should do some cost comparisons.
For my grazing system I had to invest in a fence charger, rolls of poly wire, pigtail posts, a water tank, valve, and portable water line. I bought extra poly wires and posts so I could build fence several cells ahead when I have time, so all I have to do is move the cattle which only takes a little while. My total cost for all this was around $5000. That is a lot of money. Thing is I started this program to help improve the pastures, and it has. This is a small investment when compared to that. Also at the end of the year I still have all that equipment.
If I were to spray my cattle for flies it would cost me $400 for a concentrated solution, that they recommend I mix with water and diesel fuel. The fuel would cost an additional $36. Its by far the cheapest solution. There is labor involved to gather all your cattle in, unless you use a rubber. Here’s the rub for me. Why do you want soak your cattle in a little bit of poison over and over? Second, these products will also kill the good bugs that are essential for a healthy pasture. Not to mention the pests you are trying to get rid of will come back before the beneficial bugs do. How do you assign a cost to that? I am not sure but I can assure you it would be high.
Fly tags would cost me almost $2000. I have used fly tags in the past and they are just crap. In fact when I buy my grass calves, if they already have fly tags in their ears (which is the wrong time to even have them in, leading to the flies building a resistance to them) I cut them out, even though they are brand new.
Then there is using flow through control in your mineral. I’ve tried this and it didn’t make a whole lot of difference. Also I have never gotten a straight answer on how it affects dung beetles. That literally could be a million dollar question that I have not yet got an answer to. If I were to add Altosid IGR to my mineral it would cost me an additional $1600. If I used it in tubs for 60 days it would cost me and additional $1900. (cost difference in tubs with compared to without, so you would also need to add in the cost of the tub/mineral itself) Then begs the question of what do you do with the empty tubs. Around here no one takes them if they are plastic. I can’t help but notice that people around here just leave their empty tubs accumulate in their pastures. Nice uh?
Now for Vet Gun. If I were to purchase this thing it would cost me $1250. That includes CO2 cartridges, gun, and the balls. If I were to go out and start shooting a couple hundred head with this how do you suppose it’s gunna end? If I were to walk into a crowd of people and start shooting them with a paintball gun is the crowd just going to stand there? Heck no! Plus what if I miss and hit one in the eye? To me this just looks like it don’t end well.
Then there are predator wasps. I have a little experience with these guys. I have noticed a little affect with them and the cattle seem to hang around the area where the wasps were. I plan to experiment with them more in the future
Now I didn’t start my grazing system to control flies. I did it so I could look at all my cattle in just a couple hours (I couldn’t do that when I had 50 here 200 there 20 in another pasture and so on. There was too much travel time between pastures). I did it to improve soil and grass, and cut down on less desirable species, while lightening my work load. Using my system I grow more grass. Assuming I only grow a mere 150# an acre more grass, and it’s valued at $60 a ton, there is my $5000 initial investment for water line, tank, posts and poly wire in just the first year! And just a reminder, I still own these things. With the other fly controls, you spend money, use the product and it’s gone. You also are not improving rangeland, or wildlife habitat.
All of these controls take time/labor except the mineral. All of these have a negative impact except the controlled grazing and the wasps. To me it comes down to what kind of person you are. Are you really a steward of the land or not. Are you really a stockman or not. It comes down to your work ethic, and managerial skills.