Stable fly control

The biting stable fly is a painful nuisance to pastured cattle. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done in pastures to reduce stable fly numbers except control the sites where they develop as maggots. And the time to do that is now, before the insects have the chance to breed.

Ludek Zurek is a professor of veterinary entomology at Kansas State University. He says cattle feed around large round bales that stay in the same spot, and end up defecating in the same area, too. The wasted hay then mixes with the manure, becoming the perfect breeding ground for stable flies in the spring.  

He says the easiest solution is to move the feeder every time you put a new bale in it.

"Just pushing that feeder with a tractor or some equipment just a few feet away from the old site should do the job because then the cattle start defecating into new spots and the manure will not accumulate deep enough," says Zurek. "And, it’s going to dry up in the spring and that’s going to prevent the larvae development of stable flies in the spring."

Another alternative is to put hay feeders on a slope so the area can drain and dry out.

If you can’t move the feeders and don’t have a slope, Zurek says you’ll have to do what you can in the spring.

"Try to spread out and rake that feeding site to spread that accumulated manure and hay into a thinner depth across a larger area, so again it would dry up faster, and it would not provide a habitat for stable fly larvae," he recommends.

Zurek says while these blood-sucking insects don’t transfer any pathogens or parasites to the animals, there is an indirect economic effect. The bites are painful, and the herd might bunch for protection, or stand in water to avoid the flies. They spend less time grazing, which in turn reduces weight gain.