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Those Pesky Pasture Flies! Take the Integrated Approach to Control

Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

June 27, 2013

They can cause stresses on animals; they reduce grazing time which in turn reduces production. These reductions can be seasonal, or with youngstock, cumulative. With current input and output (meat and milk) prices heading up, this season will be even more critical to manage pests.

The focus of this article will be the "Big Three": face fly, horn fly and stable fly. They each have their own feeding areas on livestock, but have similar life cycles. They all have complete metamorphosis, which means they lay eggs that hatch into larvae, then pupate and emerge as adults. Critical for control is identification, habitat management, monitoring and assessment.

The face fly was native to Europe and was first found in Nova Scotia around 1950. It spread to 26 states by 1960 and is now found in most of the US. The fly resembles the house fly, but is about 20% larger. It is a non-biting fly where the female feeds on proteins around the face; they hang out near the eyes, muzzle and mouth. They can serve as vectors for diseases such as pink eye. Also, they can congregate around wounds and feed on blood. Males generally feed on nectar and hang out on fenceposts or branches to wait for the females as they move about. After mating, the female lays her eggs (up to 600) on very fresh manure. The time from egg to adult is 2-3 weeks, depending on temperatures.

The horn fly is about half the size of the face fly. It also came from Europe, being first observed in the US in 1887 and is now generally distributed. Both males and female horn flies feed by biting and take up to 20 blood meals a day. They will congregate on backs and shoulders of livestock. The female will lay 200-400 eggs in her life on fresh, undisturbed manure.

The stable fly is another biting fly found worldwide. It is dark gray and slightly smaller than the house fly. This species is seen on the legs of livestock; when they congregate on animals, they stomp their feet to try to dislodge them. The female is less specific where she lays her eggs (200-400). Eggs may be laid on moist organic matter such as manure, spilled feeds, silage, grass clippings, and vegetation on edges of ponds and lakes. This fly can travel up to 20 miles on storms! They are the ones that stop by and take a bite on your ankles when you're out in the yard.

So once you've figured out the species, you'll need to get a count of the numbers present. This takes some time out on pastures with the livestock. A good representation is needed, the more animals the better, with a minimum of 5 to 10; 15 is better. You need to get close enough to count, so move slowly. And I suggest not doing this when you move fence unless you give the livestock time to move and settle in to the new paddock. Sample on a weekly basis at roughly the same time and write down what you see. A pocket pad works well.

Face fly - 10 flies/face.
Horn fly - about 50 flies per side for dairy, about 100 flies per side for beef.
Stable fly - 10 flies/4 legs of the animal.

Control can involve cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical; some years it may take a combination of methods. Habitat management is a critical step in breaking the life cycle and proliferation. When a female lays 400 eggs over the course of 3-4 weeks, populations can explode if not controlled. Keep feeds dry, clean up spills, move outside feeding areas if possible. On pastures, some producers utilize pasture chains or drags to disperse manure pats so they dry out more quickly. Check to see if you have ground beetles and dung beetles cleaning up those manure pats. This isn't very pleasant, but it helps with management.

Various traps are on the market. These are a mechanical means to capture the flies. Some are for livestock to walk through and flies get trapped in screens, some employ sticky surfaces, while others use attractants.

Birds (even poultry), bugs, spiders, mites, and diseases can help control populations. Some producers purchase parasitoid wasps to release during fly season. These wasps lay eggs on larvae; their eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into the maggots and kill them.

The more traditional approach is chemical: sprays, rubs, dusters, etc. If you use chemical control options, some can kill beneficial insects as well.

This is an overview of the 3 flies and a short look at control. An excellent resource for more information is, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Guide for Organic Dairies from NYS IPM program. It can be downloaded at: Conventional and beef operations could benefit from this as well.

Thanks to Keith Waldron, NYS IPM, for sharing information on this subject with me to write this article.











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Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit

Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1