Reduce horn fly populations to improve cattle performance

May 16, 2023
Horn flies can be a costly production challenge for cattle operations, hurting performance and adding health concerns. Adding an effective fly control supplement to rations can help reduce horn fly populations. Learn how to integrate supplements into your feeding program for season-long horn fly control.

Horn flies cost cattle producers nearly $1 billion dollars annually by causing stress and spreading disease, which can reduce calf weaning weights and overall herd performance. Heather Dykins, an animal nutrition consultant with CHS, and Brad Berg, a regional account manager with Central Life Sciences, say adding a fly control supplement to rations can help cattle producers pocket more profits.

The science behind fly control supplements

One female horn fly can lay up to 300 to 400 eggs, so the fly population will swell rapidly without proper control. Insect growth regulators (IGRs) reduce pest populations by breaking the horn fly life cycle. “Altosid® IGR technology is simple and easy for cattle producers to use,” says Berg. It can be added to a mineral supplement and, as cattle consume the mineral, fly control active ingredients pass through to manure and prevent eggs laid in the manure from developing into adult flies, he explains.

Fly control benefits

Providing a fly control supplement can reduce blood loss, stress and disease pressure in cattle, resulting in an overall healthier herd. “Every fly bite has the potential to spread diseases through your herd. Adding an effective fly control supplement can reduce the risk of costly diseases, including pinkeye and mastitis,” says Dykins.  

Berg adds that the most significant return on investment (ROI) related to season-long fly control comes from increased calf weaning weights. “With heavy horn fly pressure, cattle tend to congregate and graze less. If they’re not grazing, cows will not be milking to their potential, which results in lower calf weaning weights by up to 20 to 30 pounds. With calves at $2 per pound, that can result in significant revenue loss for cattle producers. The average cost to feed Altosid IGR for 200 days is around $4 to $5 per head, so there’s a huge ROI for producers.”

Find success with fly control products

Dykins recommends cattle producers start feeding fly control supplements in the spring about 30 days before the last frost and continue until 30 days after the first hard frost in the fall. “The biggest key to effective fly control is finding the right product for your situation. We want to ensure feed consumption is where it needs to be for each phase of the year. Altosid IGR is the best way to do that.”