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The mild March and warm early April weather means fly life cycles are two to three
weeks ahead of schedule this year, meaning livestock farmers need to make an early
start with their control measures.

“It may have been a long, cold winter in many areas, but it’s a myth that
prolonged freezing temperatures kill off over-wintering blowfly populations. They
overwinter as maggots in the ground where they are well protected. And the warm
early spring temperatures are already helping to speed up development so that adult
fly populations will soon start to build. As a result we are planning to treat stock much
earlier this year,” reports applied biologist, Professor Richard Wall from Bristol

As the weather warms up, there are two main groups of flies which cause
problems for cattle producers: flies which bite and feed on blood; and flies which
feed on the secretions from the eyes, nose, udder and the sweat on the animal’s coat
and skin.

Within the two groups there are a number of different types of flies, some of
which transmit disease, and others which are just a plain nuisance, but still distract
the cow from feeding.

“Control of flies around your livestock involves a combination of applying
insecticides directly onto the animal, feeding Supalyx/Rumevite garlic-based
supplements, which create an invisible odour barrier around animals to deter flies
from landing, and cleaning up potential breeding sites,” says David Thornton from

“Understanding how your own farm appeals to flies is an important step forward
in better fly control. In fact, knowing where and when flies are breeding and then
taking action to restrict the potential farm fly population is just as important as
controlling flies on or around the animals.”

David Thornton says flies prefer damp, sheltered areas where they are
protected from the wind and can find shade during the heat of the day. “So if your
stock are susceptible to summer mastitis or New Forest Eye disease, for example –
which are transmitted by the head and face flies respectively – dry cows and maiden
heifers particularly should be grazed on fields away from trees and water courses

“Most of the flies that bite cattle breed in dung or decomposing vegetable
matter, and near water, so it is important to ensure their proliferation opportunities
are as limited as possible by eliminating breeding hotspots around the farm – or
keeping livestock well away from water – and good hygiene. And it’s a good idea to
remove soiled bedding, spilled feed and silage at least once a week,” he says.

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