Spring into Action with the 30/30 Program

May 26, 2023

Did you know that the horn fly is one of the most economically damaging pests of pasture cattle in the United States? Horn flies cost cattle producers approximately $1 billion every year. But how can you fix this problem if you don’t even know what to look for?

What is a Horn Fly?
Horn flies are small biting flies with piercing-type mouthparts, which take up to 40 blood meals per day. They are grayish with two stripes on their thorax and are usually found congregating on the backs of cattle.
Horn flies typically only leave the backs of cattle to briefly lay their eggs in fresh manure. These eggs are a reddish-brown color that hatch and feed in the manure and pupate underneath or in the surrounding soil around the manure. After the pupae molt into adults, the horn flies emerge as tiny, black insects and live anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.

Signs of Horn Fly Infestations
  • Flies on the backs of cattle
  • Twitching
  • Tail swishing
Although the total life span of the horn fly is slightly longer than one month, their populations expand quickly, causing infestations. When left untreated, fly infestations can rapidly increase to over 4,000 flies per animal, leading to increased cattle stress and annoyance. This can cause cattle to burn excess energy to combat the flies, interrupt grazing patterns, and cause cattle grouping. The result of horn fly infestations exceeding the economic threshold results in reduced weight gains, decreased milk production, and reduced calf weaning weights.

Disease from Horn Flies
Horn flies tend to feed on the blood vessels in the skin of the cattle’s teat, causing irritation. When horn flies carry mastitis-causing bacteria, it enters the teat orifice and moves upward in the quarter, destroying milk-producing tissues. As the flies go from animal to animal, the disease can quickly spread throughout the herd. Infections not only impact current cattle productivity, but they can also impact long-term herd profitability.

How Can Altosid® IGR Help?
Once you have identified the flies around your herd, the next step is to act upon your knowledge. Given the role horn flies play in cow health and conception, implementing proper practices and preventative fly control strategies is key to protecting your herd and profit from horn flies.

The easiest way to control horn flies is to use an insect growth regulator (IGR), like Altosid® IGR, which allows you to add horn fly control in your feed or minerals, letting cattle do the work. Altosid® IGR breaks the horn fly life cycle, preventing pupae from developing into biting adult flies.

As winter gives way to spring, it's important to start thinking about fly control. With warmer weather comes the emergence of many pests, including flies, which can cause health problems for humans and animals alike. Uncontrolled fly infestations pose a significant threat to the productivity of dairy farms and beef cattle operations. As stated earlier, these pests can cause a decline in weight and milking productivity, as well as diseases that take a toll on the animals' comfort and the operation's bottom line. Implementing a proactive fly management program is crucial to combat this issue.

The 30/30 Program recommends the use of Altosid® IGR to control fly populations. Producers should start including these products in their feed or supplement early in the spring, 30 days before flies begin to appear through 30 days after the first frost when cold weather reduces or ends fly activity. This time frame ensures an ideal window of treatment with the products, protecting against an unpredictably early or late start to the spring or winter seasons.

To limit the population of overwintering flies that emerge in spring and mark the start of fly season, producers should follow the key steps of the 30/30 Program:
  1. Begin feeding Altosid® IGR 30 days before average daytime temperatures reach 65° F. Altosid IGR is found in all Co-op brand Fly Control Cattle Minerals. 
  2. Continue the process until 30 days after the first frost in the fall.
Numerous studies have highlighted the severe economic damage that flies can cause to both dairy and beef operations. Therefore, it is essential to control fly populations. By adopting a "30/30" approach, producers can get ahead of the fly population in the spring before it builds up to a level that exceeds the economic threshold.
By continuing to feed 30 days past the average first frost date in the fall, producers can reduce the total number of overwintering pupae, giving them a head start on the population for the following year. When incorporated into a complete Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, the use of Altosid® IGR with a "30/30" approach can help producers account for the unpredictability of the seasons and significantly lower fly populations while increasing cattle comfort and profitability.

Your local Co-op has minerals specifically for this phase of beef production along with trained personnel to help. For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator.

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