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biting flies on my beef and dairy cows

 
Kristie Wheaton
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Ok i have tried getting more responses an feedback on the dairy cow thread an not gotten a lot back. So i talked to paul about the problem i am having. My dairy cow, a brown swiss, is having terrible problems with little tiny biting flies. The underside of her bag, between her teats is getting just ate up like crazy. Also last night i noticed that she has some bites around her eyes. Which also i noticed today that my new bull, scottish highlander, has terrible bites around his eyes. Which made me go look at the rest of my cows. My youngest highlander cow has very few bites around her eyes. The 4 year old highland cow has terrible bites around her eyes. But they arent as bad as my young bull. An my oldest, six year old, highland cow has a few bites around her eyes. More than my youngest highland cow but not near as many as the bull. Then neither of my longhorn, light colored face, cows seem to be bothered too much either by the flies. Dont get me wrong they do have some bites just not like the young bull does. An my black angus heifer doesnt seem to be bothered at all. An none of my calves are being bothered.

So as paul an i were talking he brought up four different things to try. 1 being - needing to breed the fly resistence out of the cows. Which is what we are working on. But it takes time. 2- Bring my chickens paddock around behind cow paddocks 2-3 days after the cows have moved. 3- Build lots of bird houses, an even throw out lots of bird seed to help encourage more birds to come to my pastures an eat the nasty little flies. and 4- having the wasps that you bring in to eat the flies.

We talked in length on these an how each helps for short or longer periods of time. For instance with the chickens i only have ten, an i have three different paddocks with cows across the lab. So thats not really a feesible thing to do right now. They will start being moved behind my dairy cow soon though. Then the wasps are only good for about thirty days. So your rebuying them every couple weeks or so.
I am also starting to put D.E. in my milk cows grain so that it helps kill the flies before they start.

An here are some things i have tried an am trying presently- First i tried just dusting with D.E. to get rid of them . An I talked with the gal that we get some of our organic grain from a local feed store, an she suggested using geranium oil an tea tree oil. Which seems to help for a short period of time. So i am hoping by putting this out there that i will get some more feedback an responses that may help.
 
paul wheaton
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Here is a link to the parasitic wasps for fly control:

http://www.groworganic.com/fly-parasite-complex-unit-of-15-000.html



Here is a fly trap:

http://www.groworganic.com/pvfs-wood-fly-trap-12-x12-x12.html



Here is a fly trap to go with a five gallon bucket:

http://www.groworganic.com/sagebrush-metal-fly-trap-for-5-gallon-bucket.html



To recap ....

1) some cows get flies and some don't. Breed the cows that don't get flies.

2) Move the cows daily. Run chickens three days behind the cows.

2a) move the cows more often even if you don't tun the chickens behind the cows. This may help as much as 40%.

3) Build dozens (hundreds) of bird houses. Or, as a shorter term solution, throw out heaps of bird feed.

4) parasitic wasps

5) bats

6) humming birds (grow lots of plants that hummingbirds like)

7) I once saw a contraption that was a big plastic, vertical sheet about the size of a cow. ..... I found a picture:


(source)

The one I saw was much simpler than this, but this should do to give you an idea. The big vertical sheet makes the flies think "snacks!" and they bumpity-bump around the plastic until they end up in the soapy water. Their teeny tiny screams cannot be heard.

Who has more ideas or experience in this space?
 
Dan Slee
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They all sound like great solutions, but are mostly long term which helps very little especially dealing with the invasion of biters your poor cows are dealing with now. Production more than likely also suffers in the mean time until the longer term solutions start to work to varying degrees. I'm not criticizing any of the solutions, I think they are great, and the right thing to do, I just know you can't sit and wait while your herd as a whole (even the ones not getting bit probably are annoyed or picking up on the unease/restlessness of the bitten ones, stress causes sickness, keeping sick animals with healthy ones is a good way for things to spread).

I know that you mentioned 1) specific oils being suggested 2) short term effectiveness 3) Doesn't last very long / wasn't very effective.

I'd love to hear more about what you've tried, specifically with safe volatile oil plant extracts and how you tried.

I don't have much experience personally with this as an issue, but I know geoff lawton has had success suspending a towel doused in strong smelling oils with ropes over his cattle laneway, and when the cows passed through, it coats them with a fresh application along the top of the head and back. I would imagine its not pure essential oils, but also added to another cheaper oil to lengthen the effectiveness, cheapen the per application cost, etc. So theres lots of ways to try and I'm sure with some research and discussion can find specific smells, oils, and additives that are safe and will help get you to the point where the long term solutions can be of use. Its always tough to know what the solution is, but not how to get there.

Hope this helps, and thanks for putting this out there for discussion

Edit: Forgot to add that for the irritated teats, I know that farmers have in the past and some still continue to this day, in fashioning a makeshift bra to cover the damaged/raw teat from exposure to insects. Sounds like this is a different area, but might be worth exploring if even to give her a few days to heal up without the fly exposure. Food for thought

-Dan
 
Sylvia Harding
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Go to Arbico.com they have larvae that will eat flies before they hatch, you provide them with the acreage you want to be covered and the area you're in and they send it to you monthly. I used them for a few years for my horses this was fabulous it really reduced the fly population: http://www.arbico-organics.com/

Also how about fly mask they are normally sold for horses they come in a multitude of size so you should find a size that fits your cow. Try Jeffers catalogue online http://www.jefferspet.com/fly-masks/camid/EQU/cc/2251/c2c/sc/

Et voila
Sylvia
 
Alder Burns
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Years ago when I lived in GA, we pastured some turkeys together with our dairy cow. The turkeys would completely scratch the cowdung into the grass, looking for maggots and undigested grain. Then, as they grew larger, we noticed them following the cow closely much of the time and then realized they were picking the flies off of her! Eventually, the cow clued in to what they were doing and would lie down and let the birds walk all over her to get the flies! Admittedly, these were good-sized deerflies and horseflies, so they made for a rewarding turkey snack. Not sure they would go after small ones, but it's an idea to think about.....Maybe guineas would work as well or better....both seem to have more appetite for insects than chickens....
 
Jared Stanley
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I bought this a few years ago and have loved it. I am confident that someone could build one. It has been trapping every kind of biting fly wonderfully. So simple. Whether you buy one (I'm not affiliated with the company in any way or get any type of kick-back) or build one, I can attest to the effectiveness of the design:

 
Daniel Clifford
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This reminded me of a passage in Ben Falks book where he talks about pasturing his chickens with his sheep all summer and had no fly problems then once he split them up his sheep got flystrike bad. I don't know if the cows will tolerate the chickens climbing on them like these sheep did but it may be worth trying out.

Here is a link to one picture I found on pinterest of Ben's chicken's and sheep:

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/529032287449396004/

Wondering if anyone else has tried this?

Daniel
 
Conrad Farmer
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I'd vote to move the parasitic wasp idea to #1 on the list, followed at #2 by traps (wasps need help in the form of traps). The wasps get the larvae, while the traps get the egg-laying adults, thus effectively breaking the breeding cycle at both ends.

The black plastic sheet can be put up in no time (use plastic rain gutters for the soapy water), and do require some maintenance to keep the soapy water solution up, especially if it rains. Orient the plastic to maximize solar gain (south) - flies like the heat apparently.

I use Rincon-Vitova (no association, but a great supplier - Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc. rinconvitova.com 805 643 5407) as my wasp supplier, and everyone there is knowledgeable and helpful. The wasps do not breed as fast as the flies, so setting up a recurring delivery and distribution of the wasps (plus traps) is key. This has reduced our fly population in the forest of the U.P. to nearly zero on our farm.
 
Vester Stevens
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My only experience is with horses. The only cheap way I ever found to rid them of flies was to apply Avon Skin So Soft~~It lasts for hours. But for horses out in pasture, go to Tractor Supply or most Tack Shops and get a mesh mask for their eyes. They work on cows also. Just wash their faces and put on the mask. Depending on the season the flies can drive them crazy so I hope your animals are better soon.
 
Markku Salmela
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I use Ballistol animal oil to deter insects on cattle, it is totally non-toxic and works well. Originally Ballistol was invented in Germany 1904, it has been my choice of universal oil in garage and for tools already for years.
 
Nicola Marchi
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So I need to start off by stating that I have never owned or raised cows. But I can say that Greg Judy's talk on cows and mob grazing was awesome.

He did talk about culling the cows but even more importantly the bulls who were least fly resistant. His reasoning was that a good bull spreads his good genetics to all of the next generation, on the other hand a good cow will only provide those good genetics to her calves.

Now what Greg Judy described was that the fly resistant cows were very oily, and since flies don't like to land in oil, they left them alone. So using a long lasting, non-toxic oil you could spray or rub on seems to be your best shot.

Assuming you want to transition from needing to use products, I would caution you to document exactly which cows and bulls are the most fly resistant (get some solid fly counts over 4-5 days of your whole herd) before application, and to let the oil lapse (if it doesn't lapse you might want to hose them to take it off) at least once a year so you can judge how your herd is doing with its fly resistance.
 
David Livingston
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Do we know what sort of flies these are before haring off to buy a natural pest control ?
Highland Cattle have been bred in a climate with billions of biting flies ( the dreded midge ) so why should these other flies bother them ? How does your climate compare with the highlands of Scotland ?
are the cattle too hot in their long coats and in a weskened state unable to cope with the flies ??
I am reminded of the vast Deer herds _ carabou that spend there time running from flies ,an option your cattle dont have

David
 
Jason Learned
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I was thinking you could mix some of the oils into teat balm so they would stick around for a while. The viscous nature of the balm should stabilize the oils a bit and slow their diffusion and/or absorbtion. You might want to try mixing the oils into tree sap, that could create a really sticky long lasting rub. Maybe there is a tree sap native to Montana that would repel the beasties.

I really like the various bird ideas.

Good luck!
 
R Scott
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A natural bag balm works. Where we got the original recipe: http://www.bulkherbstore.com/Green-Salve-Mix-Organic We make our own in bulk now, for the cows, goats, and us.

Geoff uses what is a "normal" fly treatment method for cattle, but with organic oils instead of chemicals. If you include face strips they do help with face and horn flies, but face flies are tough to control with any method. Face strips in front of the mineral lick help, too. I use essential oil mix that duplicates vinegar of four thieves (geranium would be a good addition).

I thing having a couple cedar trees "pruned" so they can rub under are very helpful. I think the physical ability to rub their eyes is more helpful than the oil mix, actually.


 
Morgan Bowen
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I've had considerable experience in the space having reared fly parasites for 30 years.

First, the fly parasite is a tropical insect. It will have difficulty overwintering and your climate. So you will potentially have to reintroduce them every year.

Secondly, the fly parasites work best in situations where there is a lot of wet manure pileups. The corporate yucky industrial Dairy and feedlot farms that we all don't like would be an example of this. I don't think that is your situation. But if you do have a pile or standing manure That is wet and damp underneath the parasites might work well in that situation.

Thirdly, the parasitic wasps work best on the fly species Musca domestica or Common housefly. They don't work as well on the spring biting flies or sometimes called horseflies. Trapping is probably your better bet. Along with some of those ideas discussed about oils potentially.

Species diversity note it might be okay to inoculate with a very small amount of five parasites. There have been many advances in trapping since I was in the business but traps can also lower the nuisance of the adult flies.
 
Julia Winter
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I mixed commercial Bag Balm with tea tree oil for foot fungus and although it took a couple of days to finally mix together, I did end up with a very nice, very smelly salve. If tea tree oil repels flies, you could try applying that to the key areas. I don't know how long it would last.

Cedarcide is an extraction from texas cedar that smells like a cedar chest and really repels ticks and fleas. It is toxic to cats, not toxic to dogs. I don't know if it is toxic to cattle. It's a very light liquid so I tend to just spray it (like, on the legs and belly of my dog before a day in southern Illinois jungle like summer forest, full of ticks). For a longer lasting application it could probably be mixed with Bag Balm as well.
 
Chad Sentman
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Try coating a cow with Sepp's Bone Sauce.
 
Justin Jones
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My previous WWOOF host struggled with this problem. At one point she was rubbing bacon fat all over her cow every other day. I do not recommend this solution.
 
Kelly Smith
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there are people who make fly masks specifically for cows.

we have one for our pampered milk cow:


we bought the mask after she got pink-eye last year; unassumingly from a fly bite. we only put it on her during the day (off at night) and only when the flys are bad.
this year we bough fly predators (ships every 3 weeks) and even with all the extra rain/irrigation we havent had to use the mask yet this year...
i can give you the email of the lady we got ours from if your interested. jeffers.com also sells one (http://www.jefferspet.com/zebra-cow-fly-mask/p/I7-C0/
) but we found the one from Kirby to be better quality.


what are you doing for manure management? we saw a decent reduction by simply scooping and piling manure up ~25 yards away.
you mention you have 3 paddocks of cows on the lab, how often are they moved? Can the chickens live out in one of the paddocks with the cows?

in the short term i think fly traps, predators if you can get them, and constant essential oil application is your best bet.
i would be interested to hear how breeding for fly resistance goes.

sorry im not much help with the beef breeds, most of my experience is with a tame/calm dairy cow.
 
Kristie Wheaton
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R Scott wrote:A natural bag balm works. Where we got the original recipe: http://www.bulkherbstore.com/Green-Salve-Mix-Organic We make our own in bulk now, for the cows, goats, and us.

Geoff uses what is a "normal" fly treatment method for cattle, but with organic oils instead of chemicals. If you include face strips they do help with face and horn flies, but face flies are tough to control with any method. Face strips in front of the mineral lick help, too. I use essential oil mix that duplicates vinegar of four thieves (geranium would be a good addition).

I thing having a couple cedar trees "pruned" so they can rub under are very helpful. I think the physical ability to rub their eyes is more helpful than the oil mix, actually.




I definetly am looking into making this salve, it sounds like a great alternative to regular bag balm.... Ive been looking for something like this for quite awhile!
 
Kristie Wheaton
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Julia Winter wrote:I mixed commercial Bag Balm with tea tree oil for foot fungus and although it took a couple of days to finally mix together, I did end up with a very nice, very smelly salve. If tea tree oil repels flies, you could try applying that to the key areas. I don't know how long it would last.

Cedarcide is an extraction from texas cedar that smells like a cedar chest and really repels ticks and fleas. It is toxic to cats, not toxic to dogs. I don't know if it is toxic to cattle. It's a very light liquid so I tend to just spray it (like, on the legs and belly of my dog before a day in southern Illinois jungle like summer forest, full of ticks). For a longer lasting application it could probably be mixed with Bag Balm as well.


Julia i am going for a natural or organic fix to this problem so using regular bag balm is a complete no no for me. sorry
 
Greg Sachs
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Ducks! Muscovy ducks in particular are champion fly eaters. The chickens do a good job of controlling the larvae in manure, but we have a very small farm, and even if we control flies on our land, we still get lots of flies from neighboring farms.

Muscovy ducks are great at controlling the adult fly population to give our cow some relief. They have the added benefit of arguably being the most delicious fly traps.
 
Kristie Wheaton
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Ok one of the ways i am working on fly issues is with the chickens, an now i have 8, 9week old guinea chicks that hopefully will do wonderfully on eating the darn little flies... ticks... etc
guinea-chicks 1.jpg
[Thumbnail for guinea-chicks 1.jpg]
guinea-chicks.jpg
[Thumbnail for guinea-chicks.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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Along the lines of "2" and "2a" and with something someone else said: If you are going to be moving the animals just once a week, put the chickens in there with them.
 
Kristie Wheaton
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also i am using the tea tree oil an geranium oil mixed with olive oil, an putting a small amount of natural dish soap to help it stick to the animal better. An it seems to be helping a lot. Along with the d.e. in her grain every day
 
L. Zell
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I do not have cattle, but do have goats. I have been sprinkling DE on the bedding to help cut down on flies, but I'm not to where I want to be yet on control.
I was at the Elaine Ingham seminar at Greg Judy's farm last week, and learned a TON. One of the things we discussed is that the flies are a symptom of our soil food web being out of balance. Specifically, things are anaerobic. We also went and looked at some of Greg's cattle, and like someone said upthread, he is trying to breed for an oily, slick cow that doesn't attract flies. One cow had a ton, and he said she is one of the first ones on the cull list. He also has hundreds of tree swallow houses. There were tree swallows everywhere, and he said that has also made a big difference.
 
J D Horn
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As noted above, Greg Judy built lots of houses for tree swallows. http://www.treeswallowprojects.com/buildbox.html


If the chickens are too few to keep up with the manure piles, a couple of pigs would make short work of that manure.

 
Matt Baker
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The pig idea is good if you have them. I think it was in one of Greg Judy's talks he said that his pigs roll in the cow pats drying them out thus reducing fly eggs.
 
Brooke Barnabe
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I saw this topic in Paul's daily-ish email and thought I would throw in my two cents. I even created an account just to post this, but I have been wanting to make one for a long time.

This is by no means a long-term solution, like breeding fly resistance out of the cow, but it could work short-term on localized areas. You could try Four Thieves Vinegar. There are various recipes out there, but the one I use is:

2 quarts of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons each, dried rosemary, sage, lavender, wormwood, peppermint, and 2 tablespoons of fresh, minced garlic.
You will need 2- glass quart mason jars with lids. Divide the herbs and garlic evenly into the jars, and slowly pour the vinegar over the herbs.
Cap the jars and steep the Four Thieves mixture in a cool, dark area for 30 days.
Strain out the used herbs and add them to a compost heap. Return the strained liquid to the jars and cap them.
Store the jars in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, the Four Thieves will last for years.

Use it to repel fleas, ticks, flies, crawling insects. Dampen a washcloth with water and add 2 tablespoons of Four Thieves to the cloth.
Wipe down horses, CATTLE, dogs, goats, to repel fleas and flies.
Four Thieves is good for spraying socks and pants while outdoors or camping.
Fill a spray bottle with 1/2 cup of the Four Thieves mixture, add warm water, shake well, and spray exposed areas like arms and legs to repel biting insects.
Four Thieves can be used on mosquito bites to prevent itching. Spray the mixture around window sills and picnic tables.
Spray 30 minutes on grassy areas before cookouts and outdoor events.
Taken from : http://thehomesteadsurvival.com/legend-thieves-vinegar/#.U6DdOiiMUYJ


People report Four Thieves working to keep flies off their harvested deer and wild game while they are hanging up in the garage and butchering it. It's worth a try and, if it doesn't work for your cattle, you could use it as a cleaning solution (dilute it 1:1 with water), liniment, or bug spray (as stated above) for yourself
 
Kelly Smith
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Kristie - maybe it would be a good idea to separate the ideas/suggestions into short term and long term solutions?

seems to me, that breeding resistance and adding fly traps are on completely different time scales.
maybe try to tack this short term and start working on the long term ideas as you can?


can you tell us more about your paddock system? you mention you have 3 paddocks; is that for all the animals (beef, dairy, pigs?) or does each animal group have their own 3 paddock system?
 
gina kansas
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Tansy is amazing at repelling all kinds of insects and its safe to use on your cattle. Make a strong tansy tea, put it in a squirt bottle (many animals seem to fear the sound that come from a sprayer) and squirt them liberally, sponge carefully on the face though. You don't want to get it in their eyes.
 
Kelly Smith
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Kristie Wheaton wrote:Ok one of the ways i am working on fly issues is with the chickens, an now i have 8, 9week old guinea chicks that hopefully will do wonderfully on eating the darn little flies... ticks... etc


Kristie Wheaton wrote:also i am using the tea tree oil an geranium oil mixed with olive oil, an putting a small amount of natural dish soap to help it stick to the animal better. An it seems to be helping a lot. Along with the d.e. in her grain every day



so were these enough to take care of the issue?

any updates on this?
im surprised this thread died after it was sent out in the daily email....
 
Kelly Smith
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so i see paul made a blog post with all of the suggestions that were made in this thread: http://www.makeitmissoula.com/2014/07/flies-really-bite-are-they-bugging-the-cows/

is there ANY update on how things are going?
 
Kristie Wheaton
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Sorry Kelly....things are crazy busy here...I haven't had the time to sit an type this out. Things are definetly better the oil I was using helped a lot as long as I used it every day. There are wild turkeys an ravens here that I have caught cleaning up the cow poop...so that helps...as for my chickens not so much since its hard to have my chickens loose with wild animals out there..so I stuck with the oil an can say it really helps!
 
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