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Handy hints: Protecting livestock from flies

Protecting livestock from flies in the spring before they are seen on-farm is vital to prevent major economic production losses.

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Once you start seeing flies, the population has already exploded.
Once you start seeing flies, the population has already exploded.

Research has shown in cattle, fly worry can cause growth rate losses of up to 0.3kg a day and 0.5 litres a day milk loss. In sheep, more than 5.5kg of weight can be lost over four to six days and reduced wool production by up to 26 per cent in the case of blowfly strike.

 

Additionally, flies can also transmit diseases such as summer mastitis and New Forrest eye (pink eye). Waiting to protect stock until flies are seen on the farm can make them harder to control, explains Zoetis vet Dr Dave Armstrong.

 

“Once you start seeing flies, the population has already exploded. So, for effective control treating early and regularly for the right type of fly is important. It is also important to manage the environment for fly breeding sites,” he adds.

 

Dr Armstrong says control requires both protection of stock and also management of the environment to reduce fly breeding sites.

 

“Many species of fly will travel large distances to feed and will survive over winter by their larvae burrowing into the ground.

 

“So, by keeping stock away from fly breeding areas like wet and muddy areas can help reduce the risk.”

 

He adds improving ventilation in sheds to create an unfavourable fly environment will also help, as well as providing good drainage and using fly sheeting in high risk areas.

“It is also important to keep manure dry and compacted and turn every two to four weeks, as well as covering heaps and not over filling slurry lagoons.”

 

Because of the different flies and the risks they pose, Dr Armstrong advocates protecting stock throughout the entire season.

 

He also stresses the importance of knowing what species you are treating for.

 

For example, in sheep some products are insect growth regulators, meaning they stop growth at the larval stage.

 

“Insect growth regulators will protect against blowfly, but not nuisance or biting flies and will only protect against blowfly at the larval (maggot) stage. This means they cannot be used to treat blowfly infestations”.

 

“However, there are products that will treat all fly species at all different stages. It is important to speak to your vet or SQP to find out more,” advises Dr Armstrong.

Nuisance flies

Where are they found?

  • Nuisance flies breed in dung or decaying matter and are attracted to the mouth, nose, ears, eyes and wounds feeding on secretions. Their presence causes irritation, scratching rubbing and wounding.

What do they transmit?

  • The two-main species affecting livestock are the face flies and head flies. Face flies transmit New Forest eye (pink eye), head flies transmit summer mastitis and can cause black cap or broken head in horned sheep.

When are they present?

  • Face flies are active from late spring to early autumn, with eggs laid in fresh dung. Flies emerge seven to 20 days after eggs are laid.
  • Head flies are active from June until October and are present mainly in the uplands of Scotland and Northern areas. They tend to have one large breeding cycle and emerge as large swarms in mid-summer.

Biting flies

Where are they found?

  • Biting flies include stable flies, horn flies, horse flies, midges and mosquitoes. They breed in dung or around water or in damp and muddy areas.

What do they transmit?

  • They have piercing mouthparts that bite and feed on blood. They not only cause intense irritation, but they can also be vectors for disease transmission such as bluetongue and Schmallenberg.

When are they present?

  • Biting horse flies are present from May to September and have one breeding cycle. The horn fly is most active from May to September and has several breeding cycles a year.
  • The stable fly is most active from June to September and has three or more life cycles, depending on temperature. The culicoides midge has one life cycle and is most active late summer into autumn.

 

Strike flies

Where are they found?

  • Blowflies, which include the blue bottle and green bottle, are the most common species in the UK. Larvae feed on host tissue but may also feed on decaying organic matter and carcasses.

What do they transmit?

  • Hatched larvae (maggots) feed on host tissue, which can cause damage to the animal and ultimately, death.

When are they present?

  • They are temperature dependant, but mainly present between May and October.

Monitor fly levels

Keep up-to-date with regional fly levels and also other parasite data at www.parasitewatch.co.uk.

 

Parasite data from monitor farms will be updated regularly, which will allow farmers to see if there are spikes in certain parasites throughout the year in their area and enable them to take appropriate action.

 

To use the map, click on a farm in your area and details of any parasites that have been found as well as when they were detected will be displayed. Test results will be online within hours of the test being taken.

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