My friend Monte Rowland suggested we need to discuss the problems cattle producers are facing right now with flies. The following information was supplied by Rowland.
There are several species of flies that will work on cattle, disturbing their feeding, spreading parasites, biting and taking blood. One of the first tasks is to properly identify which specific fly (flies) are causing the problem, because you may have to utilize differing control strategies to be successful in reducing their number. You also need to know what insecticides you've used in the past to control flies. Never rely upon only one insecticide. Rotate among differing control strategies or resistance will develop.
Sprays, dust bags, rubs and pour-on products all can work. But there are learning curves for some of them. For instance, the cattle won't automatically walk under a bag; you need to place them where they are forced to utilize it. If your fly population is extreme, pour-on products will most likely be your best remedy.
One of the biggest health concerns that flies cause is pinkeye. This disease, if left unchecked, can cause blindness. Flies spread the disease, but many summer pastures have additional stresses that can worsen the symptoms including dust, bright sunlight, pollen, tall grass or weeds and seed heads. All these only irritate the pinkeye condition and worsen the symptoms or at the minimum increase the time to heal the disease.
One of the keys to eliminating pinkeye is to catch it early, before it has time to spread and intensify. It's much easier to treat, you can control the spread and reduce the damage to the animal if controlled early. There are several methods of control. A medicated mineral can prevent the spread and provide some control. Shade will lessen the heat stress and reduce sunlight. Mowing can stop pinkeye irritation.
Animals will need treatment if infection has taken place. An antibiotic injected as well as topical application may be necessary. A second treatment also may be needed.
I want to welcome Travis Meteer, who is the new Extension beef specialist at the Orr Beef Center. He is the first Extension specialist to be housed out of the Orr Center and is a welcome addition. Travis grew up in central Illinois, and his family maintains a purebred cattle operation. He is a recent graduate of University of Illinois and did research work at the Orr Center. Travis will be working with area beef producers, and you'll meet him at our upcoming pasture walks (Aug. 15, Mark and Matt Hill, Mount Sterling; Sept. 7, Gary Farlow, Fowler). If you'd like to contact Travis with any questions or comments, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can call him at 236-4961.