Fly Control: Manure Clean-up a Key

comments by James I. Sprague Ph.D Livestock Nutritionist

Even though we have excellent chemical agents to control flies, it turns out manure management is a key step for both feedlots and pastured cattle operations. Allen Carmichael owner/manager of CSA Feedlot at Leoti, Kansas confirmed their best tactic is cleaning the pens and selling the manure promptly rather than stockpiling the manure. He added they use some residual insecticides around buildings. He explained, with the current high price for commercial fertilizer feedlots are not having problems of selling the manure.

Manure cleanup both feedlots and pastures   
The main stable fly problem for both feedlot and pasture operations as well as horse farms is in the spring and early summer. Bub Burson, a cattle nutritionist at Kerrville, Texas confirmed that the stable flies which cause bunching of the cattle on pastures started this year (2012) in late March and April in south and west Texas. The mild winter and early spring is the cause of early fly activity.

The flies breeds and hatches from the mixture of manure and bedding material. In the case of pasture operations, feeding on the ground during the winter and spring resulting in a mixture of wasted forage and manure which is a perfect place for the stable flies to breed and multiply. If not cleaned up these areas are ideal for an explosion of stable flies. In the feedlot, the major source of fly breeding sites of the stable fly is the hospital and horse pens, plus area along the feed bunks. Where this is a mixture of spilled feed and manure will be an ideal place for stable flies to multiply.

Frequency of cleaning pen
The bottom line is there is no one correct time to clean pens. In my personal experience (and watching feedlot operators over the years) the trigger point is the area right behind the feedbunk. One of our feedlot managers had split a group of cattle into two pens. He observed one of the pens was eating more feed than the other pen. He cleaned the area in back of the bunks and the cattle in the second pen began to consume more feed.

Stockpiling and composting
Stockpiling manure is needed during the winter. But the important thing is to spread this manure as soon as possible to prevent the stable flies from breeding later in the spring season. I have observed millions of flies on stockpiles in late spring or early summer if they are not spread on the fields. (I have even seen these piles catch on fire if they are too deep.). Composting manure is also a successful strategy for fly control, possibly because is causes routine removal of manure from pens.

Equipment for cleaning pens
The trailer box scraper is used by commercial operators. One of the problems is, it is hard to get to the corners of the pens along the feedbunk Therefore the front end loader or a rear mounted scraper are used to clean out the corners. A scraper on a tractor with a three point attachment to the tractor is useful for manure work but also to clean manure from cattle drive alleys as well as road maintenance.

House flies and being a good neighbor
Control of manure will result in less house flies and is therefore important in being a good neighbor.  Since house flies are sugar eaters, it is primarily a nuisance for the offices, shops, feedmill and particularly the homes close to feedlots rather than the cattle or horses. Certainly, prompt and good manure management must be kept as a high priority by feedlot managers.   

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