Sustainable Fly Control

On the home farm this year we have taken an alternative approach to fly control.  Over the years, the traditional Deltamethrin-based insecticides have become less effective.  Alongside this is a desire to reduce costs and reduce the use of inputs harmful to soil life.

We have used the following measures successfully without having to revert to insecticides:

  • Milking cows – application of a homemade fly spray based on Apple Cider Vinegar and essential oils.  Sprayed on the cows during milking using a garden/knapsack type sprayer, with application twice weekly, more often during times of high fly pressure.
  • Bulling/in-calf heifers – occasional use of homemade fly spray.  300mm sticky fly tape wrapped around a used 200 litre barrel, placed out of reach of cattle, near water trough, shade etc. These can fill up with flies in 24 hours!
  • Weaned calves – these suffered the worst fly pressure.  Initially daily homemade fly spray whilst feeding cake.  Later in the season we changed to a mineral lick bucket containing garlic. This eliminated fly pressure within a week.

The results of these measures exceeded our expectations.  There is now a growing body of evidence, which our experience reflects, that insecticides actually increase fly pressure in the long term.  Cattle treated with systemic insecticides excrete the insecticides in their dung, killing off the beneficial soil life which breaks down the dung.  The dung remains in the field for longer, providing more breeding sites for flies, and increasing fly populations.

Combined with rotational paddock grazing, keeping cattle away from fresh and decomposing dung, the results have been:

  • Faster breakdown of dung pats – leading to less rejection by the cows
  • Reduced fly populations
  • Eye infections virtually eliminated
  • Total cost per milking cow of around £1 per year
  • Cost per heifer of around £1 per year
  • Cost per calf of around £2 per year (higher cost due to mineral/garlic licks and greater fly pressure).

Compare these costs to Deltamethrin-base products costing around £1 per cow per application, with typically 3-4 applications per year.

For more practical information on this subject and all soil health matters, contact Tom on 07496 760242 or e-mail