There are numerous species of flies that can be a nuisance on a dairy operation. They can not only act as an annoyance to animals and humans alike, but can also affect cow comfort, health and profitability. To protect the well-being of their cattle and avoid lost production, dairy operators should implement a thorough Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to combat nuisance flies. The key component to start any IPM program is the initial Planning phase, which includes the identification of problem pests, understanding their habits and devising a management strategy. Once the target pests have been identified, a successful IPM strategy must advance to the Implementation phase, approaching pest control through a combination of several complementary methods.
To have a complete program, one should include several of the following tactics:
- Improve cultural practices to reduce fly resting, feeding, and breeding sites through regular cleaning and upkeep of facilities and surrounding vegetation.
- Use natural predators and parasites, such as parasitic wasps to destroy eggs that have been laid in organic matter on the dairy.
- Incorporate various physical techniques, like fly traps and sticky tapes to remove adult flies that migrate from surrounding areas and help monitor the amount of fly activity.
- Use sprays or baits to control adult flies.
- Utilize biological controls, including feed-through solutions such as ClariFly® Larvicide, to keep larvae from developing in treated manure and emerging as adult flies.
The “cultural” component of an IPM program can have the greatest impact on fly management on a dairy and can limit the need for pesticide applications. Some entomologists have estimated that fly numbers can be reduced by as much as 75% through properly maintaining dairy facilities and removing feeding and breeding sites. For best results, operators should be practicing best manure management techniques and concentrating on keeping these typical problem areas well maintained:
- Food storage areas
- Calf rearing area
- Cow and heifer housing facility
- Milking area
- Surrounding vegetation
However, only focusing on the “cultural” component would still leave an operation with at the best 25% of the fly population. For the most complete control of flies on a dairy operation, an IPM program should be complemented with the use of a feed-through larvicide such as ClariFly® Larvicide to prevent adult flies from developing in and emerging from the manure of treated cattle. Unlike conventional insecticides that attack the nervous system of insects, ClariFly® Larvicide works by interrupting the fly’s life cycle, rather than through direct toxicity. When mixed into cattle feed, ClariFly® Larvicide passes through the digestive system and into the manure. With only very small concentrations, ClariFly® Larvicide is able to disrupt the normal molting process of the fly larvae. The mode of action of ClariFly® Larvicide is specific to insects. It disrupts the production of a substance called chitin, a key component of an insect’s exoskeleton that is not found in mammals. Without a properly formed exoskeleton, the immature fly cannot survive to adulthood. The final step of the IPM program is Evaluation, where progress is documented with a concise record of locations, conditions and actions taken. This will help dairy operators better understand what efforts proved to be the most effective and better plan pest management efforts moving forward.
By following these three steps in developing and carrying out a comprehensive IPM program, dairy operators can help protect the comfort and productivity of their cattle.