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Force field for flies

Irritating insects are nutrient robbers for cattle, but producer Jamie Gean has a plan of attack to control them
Story and photos by: Chris Villines 3/22/2019


Hardin County Angus producer Jamie Gean, left, talks cattle fly control strategy with Logan Shull, a First Farmers Cooperative livestock specialist. Jamie, an air ambulance nurse by trade, relies on Co-op products and expertise to execute a plan that makes flies scarce for his 175 mama cows and calves.
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April signifies the start of spring and all the good things that come with it — longer days, warmer weather, flowers in bloom, etc.

But for many cattle producers, spring also marks an unwelcome event. It’s the time when flies once again make an appearance on the scene to wreak several months’ worth of havoc on their herds.

Imagine spending the bulk of a day trying to swat away the pests, all while being bitten and being depleted of nutrients and energy because the insects are dining on a buffet of your blood. It’s aerobic activity that can negatively impact cattle weight gain. And less weight means less profit come sale time.

But savvy producers like Jamie Gean of Savannah are doing all they can to stay ahead of the curve. Jamie is facing the insect quandary head on, utilizing a year-round fly control program for the 175 Angus mama cows and calves he manages with the help of his father, Dannie, and brother-in-law, Brandon Morris.

“If you want the results you’re looking for, you’ve got to have a program,” says Jamie, who splits time between his family’s 800-acre farm and his career as an air ambulance nurse. “Years ago, we would jump from [fly control] mineral to mineral, whatever was cheapest. We didn’t start a program and let it run its course. Now that we have one in place, we’re seeing the results of an improved end product.”

The First Farmers Cooperative member uses a one-two punch to combat flies: (1) year-round supplementation with Co-op Cattle Mineral and (2) fly control ear tags, and he works in tandem with First Farmers livestock specialist Logan Shull to select the right mix of products for maximum benefit.

“Having the folks at the Co-op is irreplaceable for your community because their people know what they’re talking about,” Jamie says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s about animal health, feed, or agronomy. It would be hard to do this without them. Logan even comes and helps us work cattle.”

At the head of Jamie’s fly control program is Co-op Supreme IGR Cattle Mineral-RUM (#96622), which contains an insect growth regulator to prevent the development of horn flies.

“We’ll start using that mineral when we’ve had two or three weeks of 60-degrees- and-above weather,” he explains. “That’s when you start to see flies. But after about a week with the [Supreme IGR] along with the ear tags, you can see how effective they are together. And you’ll have heavier and healthier stock because of it.”

Continuing his year-round, free choice use of Co-op mineral, Jamie transitions to Co-op Supreme Cattle Mineral (#678) in the fall and early winter to supplement the herd’s grazing of forage. In the late stages of winter, he switches to Co-op Supreme Hi-Mag Cattle Mineral (#638) to help prevent grass tetany.

“If you don’t stay on a program to give mineral year-round, you’ll lose in the fall, winter, and spring what you’ve gained in the summer,” Jamie says. “You’ve got to stick to a regimen because these minerals are designed to work with each other.”

To keep the mineral in the dry and readily available, there are more than 10 Co-op Super Heavy Duty Mineral Feeders (#15440) located throughout the farm.

“They’ve been a big help to us,” says Jamie. “If you just pour mineral out on the ground and let it get rained on, you’re going to waste a lot of money. We’ve invested too much in the mineral for that.”

Another weapon in Jamie’s fly fighting arsenal is around-the-clock use of insecticide ear tags. Logan says he regularly recommends ear tags to his Co-op cattle customers as a means of effective, economical control.

“If you do nothing else, put in fly tags,” says Logan. “I tell people all the time that you can make more money putting a $2 fly tag in [cattle] than anything. With Jamie, we’ve been using a rotation of three fly tags with different chemical compounds so the cows don’t become resistant to their current tag.

“Just because a tag is a different color or name doesn’t mean it’s less effective. That’s where Co-op can help people. We have the information on what each tag is made of so you can keep rotating them for effective fly control.”

For producers not using any means to control flies, Jamie has two simple words of advice: do something.

“Whether all you can afford is tags or all you can afford is mineral, at least do something,” he says. “You’ll see the results on gain and end cash. You won’t think you’re going to see it when you buy the products, but you will if you do it long enough and stick to a program.”

Your local Co-op livestock experts can help design a fly control and mineral program to meet the specific needs of any production operation. Contact your local Co-op for additional details.

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