Signs Your Cattle Have a Fly Problem

Flies and cows are a common duo, and it’s expected to see some flies near cattle. Still, how do you know when the presence of flies is becoming a serious issue? 

Flies can be more than just a nuisance for your cattle. Although they’re typically thought of as a minor annoyance, flies can actually affect the health of your livestock in the long run. With this in mind, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs that your cattle have acquired a fly problem. Today, we're discussing some helpful tips on how to identify the signs that your cattle have a fly problem—and what you can do about it.

1. Your Cattle Lay Down Less

Cows become irritated and stressed by fly-feeding behavior and, as a result, can spend less time lying down, which leads to restlessness. If your cows are constantly roaming instead of lying down, a fly problem could be the cause. Under these conditions, it is important to take steps to reduce the cow's exposure to flies. One way to do so is to implement a strong feed-through routine using products such as JustiFly.

2. Decreased Milk Production

If you have found that your cows are producing less milk, it could be due to prolonged exposure to flies. Prolonged exposure to fly irritation can lead to a decrease in production. Animal research shows that an increasing fly population can decrease milk production by 15 to 30 percent.(Westbroek, 2002)

3. Less Eating, More Bunching

During severe fly attacks, cows tend to “bunch” closer together. Bunching is the cattle’s natural response to fly invasions. Through bunching and close contact with other cows, the cattle reduce the surface area of their bodies that is exposed to the flies. Most often, in these situations, cows make a tight circle with their heads in the center. Unfortunately, bunching in this way increases the risk of heat stress, and even weight loss, as the cows are too preoccupied with huddling to eat. 

4. Weight Loss

Whether your cattle are exposed to horn flies, stable flies, or face flies, they could be subject to weight loss, but different flies may cause weight loss for different reasons. 

  • Horn flies consume the blood of the cattle. They’re often found near the horns, neck, throats and sides of cows. They’re known to attack cattle 30-35 times daily. As a result, an animal may lose up to a pint of blood a day. This disrupts the cow’s grazing, leading to severe weight loss. 
  • Face flies are also known to cause weight loss. True to their name, they frequent the cow’s face. If there are more than a dozen flies, the cow will become distracted and grazing will reduce significantly by as much as an hour daily. 
  • Similar to the horn flies, stable flies also bite, but they’re known for attacking cows when they’re feeding. This distraction results in less eating, and, ultimately, more weight loss. 

Why it Matters

If you run a cattle operation, it's important to be aware of the risks that cattle flies can pose to your livestock. These pests can infect cattle with harmful diseases and parasites, which can lead to weight loss, reduced milk production, and even death. It’s important to note the economic threshold these flies can have. For instance, when left untreated, horn fly infestations can reach up to 4,000 flies per animal. However, studies have shown that it only takes 200 flies per animal to affect your bottom line. 

Understanding the telltale signs that flies have overtaken your cattle is essential for protecting your cows from these dangers. By taking steps to reduce the fly population on your farm, you can help ensure that your cows remain productive and healthy.

JustiFLY Feedthrough - Optimized for Year-Round Fly Control

While there are many fly control solutions on the market, JustiFLY feedthrough products are among the most reliable and practical for year-round use. Eaten by your cattle as part of their usual feeding routines, feedthroughs will enable you to control flies within one area that is very attractive to them—the cattle's manure.

JustiFLY feedthroughs contain insect growth regulator (IGR) larvacides which are not harmful to cattle, but are to flies. When cattle consume the IGR, it passes through their systems and is deposited in their manure. When flies lay eggs in the waste, the IGR inhibits the formation of the larvaes' exoskeletons, preventing them from hatching into healthy adults. Doing so breaks the flies' lifecycles, cutting down on the fly population near your cattle.

It is possible to use JustiFLY products throughout the year. Doing so can save you valuable time in your feeding routines. If you opt to only use feedthrough sporadically, you may have to recalculate rations each time you add or remove the feedthrough. This can cause a lot of hassle, cost variations and lost time. So, keeping JustiFLY products in your cattle feed or mineral year-round can cut down your stress levels, not to mention protect your cattle from significant stress as well.

Implementing a year-round fly control routine doesn't have to be difficult when using JustiFLY products as part of your feeding routine. Keep your cows happy and safe by making fly control an ongoing process.