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THE MAIN KINDS OF FLIES:
HOUSE FLY (Musca domestica)- Most people are familiar with these flies. They can be a problem in barns, stables and food processing facilities. They are not only irritating but they spread many diseases.
STABLE FLY (Stomoxys calcitrans) -They are usually found on the legs of livestock and are about 2/3 the size of a house fly. They cause irritation and spread disease. They will cause an average of 2-5% of average daily gains.
HORN FLY- (Hematobia irritans) Very small, about . the size of a stable fly. Usually found on the head, around the horns and especially over the shoulders and back. A standard infection of 500 flies will suck .# of blood per animal per day which costs $10-14/head/yr. Carries diseases including TB, Bovine Leukemia, Anthrax, Pinkeye, mastitis and others. Each one bites 20-40X a day, just 200 flies will reduce milk production by 20%, ADGs by 1/4-1/2#/day.
FACE FLY- (Musca autumnalis) Carries Moraxella bovis, the pinkeye bacteria, and one of the most economically devastating flies, averaging costs of $25-33/head/year.
HORSE FLY and DEER FLY- Severely irritating insects that cause large bites and welts. Can cause stampedes and carry all sorts of infectious diseases.
FIRST OF ALL: Study the parasite, itʼs important to know what kind of flies you are dealing with, they all have different life cycles and different diets and habits. Letʼs say itʼs a blow fly, which is a large blue-green type of farm fly. They eat garbage and food primarily, lay their EGGS in wet manure or food. At 70 degrees F, the eggs hatch in 23 hours into small LARVAE (MAGGOTS) which then grow, turning into hard brown PUPAE at around 130 hours. By 143 hours they hatch into full-sized flies and it starts all over again. You need to know when to attack each stage and where they are.
The HORSE BOT FLY (Gasterophilus intestinalis) has a different cycle. They live 7-10 days and will lay about 500 eggs on the legs of the animal, which are then licked off the legs by the animal and swallowed. The larval cycle continues inside the gut, which they perforate and migrate through the body for 8-10 months finally coming to the surface of the skin as ugly wounds with a living bot inside each boil. In spring they fall to the pasture where they mature into pupae. In 4-8 weeks the adult flies emerge to start again.
Note that every insect in the world has ANTENNAE. These devices are for locating hosts (i.e. “food”) which they will parasitize. All living creatures, plants included, emit tiny electronic signals which are like radio waves picked up by parasites. When we are healthy and have a strong immunity, the signals say “stay away!” whereas sick, devitalized or malnourished plants and animals send the signal that says basically “Iʼ m defective, Iʼ m food, come on down!”. You never need to kill the parasites or flies you just need to create a farm with “nothing to eat” and the flies will go away. Thereʼ s not enough poison in the world to kill all the parasites, if you have sick and weak animals the flies will find you.
Note that a truly HOLISTIC PLAN doesnʼ t ever look for one magical “Silver Bullet” to cure all problems, and, really, there isnʼ t one. Parasites are a “farm problem” not an animal problem. Therefore everything must be taken into consideration. Like all infectious diseases, there isnʼ t a parasite problem that canʼ t be tracked back to some sort of a nutritional deficiency or imbalance. The main areas we will examine and correct are NUTRITION, MANAGEMENT and GENETICS, although everything is related. If there is one hole in the boat, one door left open we can still have parasite problems. Thatʼ s why we have TEN MAJOR CATEGORIES OF PREVENTION AND CURE:
1) GET CHICKENS, DUCKS, GEESE OR GUINEAS- These efficient eaters of larvae, pupae and adult insects can cleanse a farm of parasites! This is why itʼs important to understand the life cycle of the flies on your farm. For example for flies such as horn flies, face flies and stable flies that lay their eggs in fresh manure, youʼd want to run the birds 7-10 days after the cattle have run in the paddock. This will maximize catching them as larvae and pupa and they are gone. Domestic birds also scratch through the manure and do an excellent job of spreading and drying out the manure. Flies wonʼt hatch in dry manure, so moisture loss helps prevent fly population explosions. Traveling “egg mobiles” or “chicken tractors” as well as portable electric feather netting are great ways to move populations of birds behind livestock.
2) GET NATURAL FLY PREDATORS- Many insects such as spiders, wasps and “Robber Flies (Promachus rupifes) eat and destroy various aspects of the fly life cycle. Some organic farmers and ranchers say “never kill a spider”, this is because most of them are killing machines for thousands of parasites. There are also great benefits to be had by cultivating populations of lizards, toads and frogs, which live on a diet of insects.
3) INCREASE THE WILD BIRD POPULATION on the farm. We are most interested in insect-eating species such as barn swallows, purple martins, bluebirds and many others. By building species-designed houses the population will expand. Martins love the big bird condos, Iʼve been on farms with a bluebird nest on every other fencepost. You can also buy fiberglass barn swallow adobe houses to attach to the barn walls.
4) DUNG BEETLES! No fly reduction plan can be complete with learning how to nurture the dung beetle population. This will definitely require one to stop using all chemical wormers (Ivomec doesnʼt kill many worms anymore but destroys dung beetles in the manure). Once you quit using wormers the beetles will find you but you can speed things up by bringing in manure from another farm with healthy beetles. They exist from the Arctic to the Anarctic and there are hundreds of species. Some are smaller than ladybugs others as big as June bugs. Itʼs good to have all sizes and species.
5) OILERS, MISTERS, DUSTERS- Surprisingly, organic and non-toxic essential oil repellents work the best. Get a product like ECTOPHYTE, dilute it between 1:4 and 1:9 depending on fly population and spray it onto the backs, legs and faces of the herd. Repeat it as needed but try to get more of the oil-repellent mix onto canvas oilers and put them all over the farm. Every farm supple house has various models. The FLY KILLER KOVERs fit over the top of the 3 hopper mineral boxes and enable the livestock to self-medicate every time they hit the minerals. Avoid strong pesticides as they actually weaken the animal making them even more prone to parasite load.
6) FLY TRAPS- Traps really work and they destroy fly populations quickly. The walk-through traps can be home-made, the plans easily available on the internet or from the University of Missouri for $2.50. These traps work best for dairy cows. The Epps trap is a pasture trap that uses bait to lure flies.
7) MANURE MANAGEMENT- As stated before, most of the most damaging species of flies lay their eggs and hatch from manure. The manure must be moist for the eggs to hatch. By spreading, harrowing or using chickens to spread the manure, no hatch can occur. When manure is stacked into compost heaps it may be necessary to cover the piles to prevent fly breeding. The best breakdown of manure comes from vibrant soil biology which rapidly breaks it down. Barn lime can be used as well.
8) MINERALS AND GOOD BROWSE- The best source of the minerals that strengthen the immune system and therefore repell all forms of parasites including flies is a good polyculture biodiverse browsing/grazing menu. Weeds of all forms contain tannins, alkaloids and natural plant “medicines” that flies hate. If the soil or the land is missing minerals (and most is) then the lack must be made up from bagged free-choice minerals. To repel flies a typical cattle mineral should have about 3-5% sulfur, 500-700 ppm iodine, 3000-5000 ppm copper, and 25-35 ppm natural selenium, in addition to the other well-balanced minerals. Wickʼs Livestock Nutrition also makes an add-pack called SALT SIDEKICK (see back page) that is 60% sulfur with 9000 ppm iodine to “spike” the salt giving the livestock the extra seasonal protection they need (for flies in the summer and lice in the winter).
9) APPLE CIDER VINEGAR- One of the best ways to knock fly populations. The animals love it and we use it to help them get rid of other parasites as well. Works on every species of livestock including birds and horses. The best way to give it during a fly strike is to offer it free-choice in a rubber tub mixed half and half with water. The more stricken animals well drink more but none of it will be wasted.
10) GENETICS- After a while it might be noticeable that one or more of the weaker, scroungier animals are getting more worms, more flies and more problems. These animals should be culled on this basis especially if you have tried all the techniques above. Not only do these animals drag down the rest of the herd, but they also create more weak genetic animals in their offspring, thus you never bring the health of the overall herd up to parasite-resistant animals.
BONUS- There are a few farms that have unique and potentially toxic environmental issues that confound all the reasonable attempts to cure problems with natural cures.The ranchers seem to be “doing everything” but the problems remain. These might include stray voltage, EMF transmission lines, contaminated ground or well water, excessively high iron levels in the water or forages, moldy feed or mold in the feedbunks or hoppers, herbicide or pesticide contamination, or other toxic influences. When reasonable methods do not get results, we then begin testing to find hidden sources of immune damage.
Also flocks or herds that have had years of dosage with fly poisons and wormers will become weaker and weaker every year, creating a virtual addiction to poisons, wormers, fly sprays, vaccines and antibiotics just to stay alive. Regular dosage with wormers and fly poisons enable virtually every animal to stay alive and even breed more of the same. The rancher is unable to determine the weak genetics and eliminate them so the continue to pollute the herd. Even the brightest animals are dragged down by the constant use of drugs and poisons so itʼs impossible to select the best for breeding or to cull the money-losers.