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Animal Health Notebook

Here's My Final Thoughts On Fly Control

Our future fly control and overall viability requires we learn to think and act outside of the box.


If you have made it through my previous dissertation on fly control and the importance and utilization of natural systems I am about half surprised.

My desire is to open your thought processes to modes of action and management to which you may not have been introduced in the past. That's not always easy.

Several years ago I heard someone say that life is a series of making mistakes and paying enough attention to figure out what we did wrong. I like that. Instead we often act by reflex and previous training. I promise you that our industry is not the same as it was 40-plus years ago when I started. If I had not made huge changes our profits and our business would no longer be viable.

Folks, I have made about every mistake ... and if you have been around a while you may be trying to catch me. The solution is to keep up your interest, reading and investigations of the totality of your operation. The holistic mind set requires constant rethinking, questioning and relearning. A little regular planning also is necessary.

However I'll tell you that for me, the natural-systems approach has opened large doors to speedy soil improvement, quality forage development, year-round grazing, better stewardship, increased profits and fun.

Our future viability will require that we learn to think and act "outside of the box."

A handful of new technologies and new ideas have made it possible for us to closely mimic nature models. If you elect to study and work with nature on your ranch/farm the rewards will increase as you get closer to the will of the Creator.

Large numbers of flies and big fly control expenditures are a symptom of a broken cattle production model. I have attempted to address the break, particularly in previous writings in Beef Producer magazine and in my blog.

Here's another step: Our major non-natural fly control program starts late in the day.

When several head of cattle have too many flies I put a hot wire (polybraid) around the water source and effectively lock the cattle from water for the night. The next morning I roll up the wire and quietly spray flies while the cattle drink.

Remember to observe the cattle that have lots of flies. They are usually the ones with dull, long hair, poor gains, internal parasites and red ink. Put them on the cull list and send them to town.

We have been almost shocked by how well our program has developed and worked. With soil health improvements, the number of days before our "good bugs" go on strike increases every year.

Here's my take-home message:

1. Fly control is species and numbers game

2. When soil health increases, flies decrease

3. Chemicals that kill bad bugs also kill good bugs

4. Without the bugs we are all dead

Ray Bannister of Montana says that all working natural systems move from "boom to bust." Large fly numbers may show up occasionally in a high-functioning, planned grazing system, but they will not persist there long-term.

Gordon Hazard says our failure to improve our ranching enterprise toward higher profitability will ultimately lead to business death. Again, Amen.

We all have chores. We can continue to search for and apply larger band-aids with their inherent problems, costs and occasional failures. We can sell out and move to town. I prefer the third option: We can open and expand our minds, followed by action toward working with nature.

I hope that most of this makes sense and you have good grazing this fall.

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