Justin Talley's research shows several ways cattlemen can make life much more inhospitable for stable flies and their larvae.
- Read more about parasite and fly control here.
Typically, flies pose the greatest problem during the second half of the grazing season. BEEF walks you through the easy steps to defeat them.
Now that you know your enemy, or at least know where to find it on the animal, you can choose your weapons. Trouble is, the armament available today only works with any prolonged effectiveness on horn flies.
That's because horn flies are the only ones that hang around long enough for the insecticide to do any good. The other types of flies don't stay in contact with the animal long enough for any current control method to be effective.
“I don't try to encourage much optimism in being able to control face flies,” says Roger Moon, a University of Minnesota veterinary entomologist. The same holds true for horse flies and stable flies.
However, all is not completely lost, at least with stable flies. While chemical control doesn't work, there are some management options that can be effective.
According to Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock entomologist, stable flies used to be considered a problem only in confinement situations, such as feedyards, dairies or swine operations. But as cattlemen adopted round bales for winter feed, the stable fly took advantage of the situation and prospered.
The hay residue left from round bales, combined with manure from the cattle, makes ideal habitat for the fly larvae.
“And they're really productive sites,” Moon says. “You can find dozens of maggots in an area the size of a teacup. And if you're is feeding multiple rings, all those places are producing a wave of stable flies late spring and into summer.”
Talley's research shows several ways cattlemen can make life much more inhospitable for stable flies and their larvae. The first is to unroll the round bale when you're feeding, rather than put it inside a hay ring and let the cattle feed free-choice. This spreads out the cattle, which spreads out the residue and the manure.
However, proving there are no perfect trade-offs, feeding off the ground can encourage the spread of internal parasites such as the brown stomach worm. Rotating your feed grounds, just as moving hay rings to keep stable flies off balance, can help.
The second, if using hay rings makes more sense in your management system, is to clean up the feed grounds before fly season. “Disturb the habitat in some way,” Talley suggests. “Even if you go in there and scrape through it or scrape it into a pile, it will help.” Moon suggests, in addition to that, consider moving your hay rings between bales as you're feeding in the winter. That way, you don't get an accumulation of residue from multiple bales.
It's worth the effort, Talley says, because reducing the number of stable flies will help your cattle tolerate their existence.
“Research shows that 72% of the weight loss from stable flies is caused by the animal's behavior — bunching — and 28% of weight loss is attributed to the stable fly feeding.”
Good housekeeping won't completely cure your stable fly problem, because they move around quite a bit. So if you have neighbors who don't clean up their feed grounds, or you live in an area where suburban encroachment is a problem, stable flies, like face flies, may simply be a pest you just have to live with.