Press-Republican

Columns

August 5, 2012

Flies not just a nuisance

Have you ever been bothered by that annoying fly that buzzes around you head like a miniature dive bomber? Just imagine how a cow feels with dozens of flies buzzing, biting and aggravating it all day long. 

Whether they are out on pasture or in a free-stall barn, flies can cause undue harm to dairy cattle and other livestock and can cause off-farm concerns. Did you know Cornell University’s Veterinary Entomology Program has developed a highly effective integrated program to help producers minimize fly problems, protect animal health and net profitability? Did you know Cornell University has the only Veterinary Entomology Program in the northeast?

As concern related to pesticide use increases, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for livestock pests becomes more important every year. The summer season can expose fly-management issues on individual farms yet provides educational opportunities to avoid problems, too.

Have you seen more flies on farms even after insecticide use? This could likely indicate presence of insecticide resistance, an increasingly common problem on New York livestock farms. Add to this, there are fewer insecticides currently on the market that are registered for livestock use. These issues and others have increased concerns over options available for fly control. What is one to do? An integrated approach is the only effective means to keep fly populations at manageable levels.

Another interesting fact is that there are several distinctly different livestock flies that affect cattle, goats, sheep and horses. Blood-sucking flies, such as horn flies, stable flies, horse flies and deer flies, can cause severe stress and annoyance to cattle. “Fly worry” can lead to decreased weight gain and milk production because cattle spend time trying to avoid and remove flies rather than feeding. Fly bites may also cause hide damage and spread viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases. Face flies and house flies are mainly a nuisance to cattle, but face flies can cause severe eye irritation and contribute to the spread of Pinkeye, an infection of the eye.

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