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On February 19, the temperature was down in the low 20s in Marianna, Fla. Hardly typical. But Lamont Ennis wasn't complaining. "Isn't it a beautiful day? This will knock the flies back."
It's no wonder Ennis welcomes cold weather. This general manager of the Southern Cattle Company, said he and his crew fight flies at least six months out of the year. They appreciate any help Mother Nature throws their way.
"Fly control is a challenge in the Southeast because of our warmer weather. We don't get enough prolonged periods of cold weather to impact insect populations. Then we have a long, hot, humid summer season," he said.
The battle against flies starts mid-March, which is weaning time at the ranch. Because fly populations can be unusually high here and the season long, Ennis' control program may not always toe the line recommended by some entomologists to avoid the development of resistance. He does make sure, however, that his approach to control is multipronged.
Ennis said they try to keep ahead of flies, making sure controls are part of their scheduled program. As calves are vaccinated, around the 8-month-old mark, they are dewormed, and the keepers are treated with a fly pour-on. He uses either Ultra Saber (lambda-cyhalothrin), which targets horn flies, or Durasect (permethrin) for lice and face fly control.
The weaning process, and the use of the pour-on applications for fly control, continues until mid-June for the fall calving operation. It takes that long to wean calves from a 4,500- to 5,000-head cow herd, spread over some 15,000 acres.
Along with the pour-on applications, minerals with feedthrough fly control containing methoprene are made available to the herd in mid-March. Ennis continues to use these minerals until the end of fly season, typically sometime in mid-October.
While Ennis said his program works well and credits the feedthroughs with a large share of his control success, producers need to know the limitations of feedthrough products.
Dave Boxler, entomologist at the West Central Research and Extension Center, North Platte, Neb., said feedthrough fly-control products work well when it comes to killing fly larvae in manure, but the products will not kill adult flies. In addition, there is always the migration of flies in from adjacent pastures to consider if this is a chosen method of control.
In Ennis' situation, the pour-ons usually give control for 45 days, and the mineral is an additional method. When fly populations really ramp up in August and September, Ennis said they use the pour-on again or spray cattle with a permethrin or cyfluthrin insecticide from a hand-held unit out of the back of a truck after baiting cows into corrals.
Boxler uses a similar approach with a sprayer but does it out on pasture.
"I did a study five years ago with a mist blower on a pickup, and I was able to reduce stable flies 72%," he reported. "I fed the cattle range cake, and over time, they calmed down. Some of our producers in the Sand Hills have adapted the system, and it works pretty well for their management styles."
Boxler particularly likes the approach since it keeps from stressing the animals by penning them in during the heat of the summer. Plus, he said it is hard to get spray on the legs of cattle for stable fly control when they are crowded in a corral.
LESS MANURE, FEWER FLIES
Back in Florida, Ennis said sanitation is another key component of their fly-control program.