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Pest Control | Spring 2005 Out Here Magazine

Insecticides and repellents pack more of a punch as part of a managed pest-control program

By Noble Sprayberry

In a home, flies are a nuisance. In a barn filled with animals, though, they become a critical health problem.

And simply spraying pesticides isn't the solution. The insects have developed a resistance.

Instead, a multi-pronged approach called integrated pest management offers an effective, cost-efficient solution. The idea combines monitoring, sanitary practices, biological controls, and chemicals, says Phillip Kaufman, research associate of Livestock Entomology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

"It's actually a major problem," Kaufman says. "Some industries are hit harder than others. In poultry, it's a severe issue and in the swine industry, it can be."

Houseflies and stable flies are the two most common culprits.

Severe housefly infestations in cow milking rooms might increase the bacterial counts in milk. Stable flies feed on blood and can irritate animals.

Integrated pest management can reduce insecticide applications by 80 percent and costs less than traditional spray programs, Kaufman says.

Sanitation is the most critical aspect. Keep animal bedding dry, and remove wet and soiled bedding, as well as manure, as often as possible.

Monitor the fly population by tacking up 10 white index cards where animals are housed. Flies land on the cards and leave dark spots. An average of 100 spots per card weekly is the threshold for a serious infestation, Kaufman says.

Flies do have natural enemies, such as beetles and mites that feed on fly larvae, but insecticides can kill these beneficial insects. One solution is to buy tiny fly-killing wasps, which represent no danger to livestock or humans. Buying these insects, known as parasitoids, is possible from several companies nationally and ads are common in livestock and horse magazines.

Finally, insecticides remain important. Space sprays can knock down fly populations in an enclosed space and these sprays leave little residual effect. Baits also help manage moderate fly populations. Also, whole animal sprays applied directly can give animals needed relief.

Regardless of the location, every barn manager must cope with flies, Kaufman says.For example, cattle are enclosed more often in the colder Northeast, compared to Florida or California where they might roam and take shelter only from the sun.

Modern systems for swine production do a good job eliminating flies but managers of older, less-automated barns must take care, Kaufman says. And horse barns, where manure is removed frequently, typically are not as much of a problem.

It's important to use the proper techniques for each situation, Kaufman says, and local agricultural extension services and universities can usually provide the details.

Noble Sprayberry is a freelance journalist based in Dallas.