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Feed the flies ‘goodbye’

Effectiveness and low-stress delivery makes Co-op mineral with fly control the cornerstone product of Crockett County farmer’s pest-fighting arsena
Story and photos by Sarah Geyer 3/23/2018

 

Alamo livestock and row-crop producer Gordon Fisher depends on Co-op’s Supreme IGR (insect growth regulator) Cattle Mineral as the foundation of his fly control program. Feed-through IGRs prevent horn fly eggs from developing into adults, therefore greatly decreasing the numbers. Horn flies, along with houseflies and face flies, are more than just irritating pests for cattlemen like Gordon. The external parasites can be quite costly in lost production, treatment expense, and disease transmission, taking a significant toll on animals’ comfort and the farm’s bottom line.
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There’s no doubt that flies stress cattle. Insect bites and blood feasts, as many as 30 times a day per insect, causes the cattle pain and irritation — and stress.

Stress in cattle can be costly. As animals attempt to ward off and dislodge the insects, their grazing is interrupted, and the results are often decreased weight gain and milk production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that horn flies alone are responsible for a $1 billion loss in cattle production each year.

At the height of fly season, their sheer volume can make producers feel like they’re fighting a hopeless battle. It’s a fight Alamo’s Gordon Fisher, a cattle and row-crop producer, has learned can’t be won with only one treatment method. This reality has led the Crockett County cattle producer and many farmers to try “every new fly control treatment that hits the market.”

“I want my cattle happy and growing, so I’ll fight flies any way I can,” says the full-time cattleman who, along with his son, Tate, 21, runs a cow/calf operation consisting of 220 mamas and 10 Black Angus and Brangus bulls on 700 acres of pasture and cuts an additional 300 for hay.

“But it’s not like spraying pesticide on your crop and seeing the results the next day,” adds Gordon, who also raises 2,000 acres of beans, corn, and wheat. “You can’t just fight the ones you see because there are lots that haven’t hatched yet. That’s why I’m always willing to try a new approach.”

If the product meets his standards, he’ll usually add it to his treatment plan, says Gordon, who grew up raising cattle. However, his standard is based on more than just effectiveness.

“I also consider an equally important factor,” he explains. “I ask myself: ‘Does this method cause even more stress to the cow?’ If I’m fighting flies because they’ll stress my cattle, I sure don’t want to add to that stress with my fly control treatment.”

Gordon says that with this litmus test one product stands above the others. And he’s made that item — Co-op’s Supreme IGR Cattle Mineral-RUM (#96622) — the cornerstone of his fly control program.

“My cattle are used to having Co-op mineral year-round,” he explains. “That means I can treat the flies without changing any part of their routine. That’s about as low stress as you can get.”

With low-stress delivery as a key component for his fly control approach, Gordon realized his use of ear tags, even though an effective method, needed to stop.

“I work my cattle in the spring and fall,” says the Mid-South Farmers Cooperative member. “So adding fly control ear tags meant a third trip through the working equipment, and most likely in 90-degree heat. To me, it’s not worth the risk of an overheated cow just to put in an ear tag. I had to find another approach, and I think I’ve got a good one.”

Gordon has developed a fly control program for his cow/calf operation that includes a variety of methods to supplement the IGR mineral. He hangs face fly attachments on each feeder and places back rubbers in high-traffic areas. For spot treatments, he uses the VetGun™, a CO2-powered system that delivers insecticide through a paintball-like gelatin capsule, and premise sprays for localized coverage.

“You’ll never get rid of all of the flies; nothing is going to work 100 percent,” he says. “But what I use definitely decreases them. Which one is doing the most, nobody knows. But there are two things I know about the fly control mineral: I’m already feeding them mineral because they need it, and I know they’re getting the fly control treatment because they’re eating the mineral.”

Providing early spring to late fall access to the IGR mineral will produce optimum results. The insect growth regulator prevents horn fly eggs from developing into adults by passing through the animal’s digestive tract unaffected and into the manure where it interrupts the life cycle of the fly. The extended timeline ensures the IGR is available during every stage — from the egg to adulthood — of a fly’s lifespan.

“We suggest making the fly control mineral a part of the herd’s diet before flies appear in the spring,” says Ray Neal Turner, assistant manager and feed and animal health specialist for Mid-South’s Alamo branch. “My rule of thumb is to start in mid-March. Cattle should continue to eat the IGR mineral until after the first frost.”

Refilling feeders to ensure cattle have constant access to the mineral is a simple task, says Gordon, thanks to the Co-op weather-proof packaging.

“I keep a few sacks of mineral on the back of the truck all the time,” he explains. “That way, when I’m checking on cattle and notice a feeder is empty, it’s easy for me to fill it up right then. Even if it’s been pouring rain for days, I know when I open the bag that mineral will still be loose.”

Although Gordon has varied the type of mineral he’s provided over the years, like adding the fly control option in the spring, free choice Co-op

minerals have been a part of his nutritional program for more than two decades. During the fall and early winter months, he feeds Co-op Supreme Cattle-CTC (#96560/VFD required). By late winter, he changes to Co-op’s Supreme Hi-Mag Cattle Mineral (#678) which helps prevent grass tetany, a metabolic disorder cows can develop when grazing new growth.

“I know cattle people who switch mineral brands a lot, and it seems like they’re always telling me about their herd having this or that trouble,” says Gordon. “I have a group of cattle out there that stay healthy, have for many years, because they get Co-op minerals.”

Contact your local Co-op livestock expert for more information about fly control mineral or assistance in designing a fly control and mineral program to meet your farm’s specific needs.

 
 
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