I’m not the betting kind, but the likelihood of your calves battling fly populations is high if you live in the upper Midwest. Last month we talked about larvicides and their use on the calf ranch or dairy. This month, I’d like to focus on how to further reduce fly populations aside from larvicides or other chemical use. Listed on the next page are additional things to keep in mind as we approach fly season this Spring.
1. Make your bedding choice carefully. We know from various studies that flies thrive in certain types of bedding. Reduced fly populations are tied to:
- Bedding types that were NOT straw. Sawdust and shavings are preferred over straw because they do not absorb as much moisture. Fly larvae thrive in wet environments which accelerate organic matter decomposition. Shavings and sawdust also have higher lignin values which slow decomposition over that of straw.
- Bedding that was not given the chance to develop a “pack”. When we let bedding build up to develop a pack, this means bedding is around long enough to start decomposing or fermenting. The quicker we remove the pack, the less time manure, bedding, and urine are around for flies to take advantage of.
2. Slope your hutches. Hutches that are gently sloped to allow drainage will reduce your fly burden. Flies like moisture because moisture aids in decomposition and the breakdown of organic matter into “fly food”. The drier your bedding, the less flies can take advantage of it for a breeding ground. The slope should be highest at the back of the hutch and slope down towards the front of the hutch.
3. Improve drainage around your hutches. For many producers, this means utilizing a gravel or pea rock base in their hutch area or calf barn to allow for fluids to drain away from the calf. This will also reduce the total amount of bedding you will have to use to keep calves clean and dry. Furthermore, it’s less bedding for you to have to remove and dispose of. 4. Make sure your milk, water, and feed pails are large enough for your calves’ needs. When calves have pails that barely fit their feed or milk allotments, it increases the amount of feed spilled and waste we have building up around the hutch. Feed waste is expensive and this is more “fly food” available for flies to take advantage of.
5. Do not feed your calves inside the hutch. Calves are messy. I know if your operation is like my family’s, you have one or two calves that think it’s fun to tip their pail over or fully submerse their heads in the milk pail. We know that calves will make messes, but if we encourage them to make it outside of the hutch away from bedding and where drainage is better, this will further reduce your fly burden.
6. Discard waste water, feed and used bedding away from calves. We all know flies love this stuff. When they find these piles of waste, it’s like they hit the jackpot. Get this waste away from calves and if you can and spread it out in a thin layer so that it can dry in the summer sun. The less moisture, the better, and the further the waste is from the calf, the better.
I’m wishing you the best luck this fly season. If we can help you with further fly control strategies, contact the VMC/PLS team at 1-800-522-3276.