GOOD RIDDANCE: A Pest Bird Solution

Published on Mon, 09/21/2015 - 3:27pm

By Maura Keller


Good dairy farming practices are part art, part science and a whole lot of hard work. Today’s dairy farmers are faced with a myriad of challenges — from ensuring hygienic milking regimens to providing high-quality feed and water to maintaining clean housing and milk production facilities. And one issue that can affect all of the above is pest bird problems.

Tasheena Dillingham, owner of Avitrol, understands the inherent risks that pest birds bring to all size dairy farms. Avitrol is a pest-bird control solution that has helped many dairy farmers eliminate their pest bird problems and reduce the damage caused by nuisance birds.

According to Dillingham, starlings, house sparrows, pigeons, grackles and cowbirds are nuisance birds that dairy farmers face throughout the year — especially during the fall and winter months as these birds are looking for easy food and harborage sources.

“When these pest birds come in contact with feed and water intended for dairy cows, they contaminate the food source, which can result in disease transmission,” Dillingham says. “Not to mention, 100 starlings can consume approximately up to 11.25 pounds of food per day. Because their flock sizes are typically large, a flock of 1,000 can cause losses in feed of over 41,000 pounds annually.”

Pest birds also prefer eating the protein portions, resulting in decreased food quality for cattle, which can cause a decrease in milk production.

“These birds will also travel from farm to farm, causing biosecurity issues,” Dillingham says. “Notably, Cryptococcosis, a fungal disease, is carried by starlings and pigeons, which may cause fatal or chronic meningitis.”

How it Works

Specifically, Avitrol is used as a chemical frightening agent in treated bait to remove pest birds from feedlots and other areas. The Avitrol bait uses 4-Aminopyridine (4AP), an acute oral toxicant, which is used as a human drug for treating multiple sclerosis, and other conditions involving nerve damage.

Used in Avitrol Brand baits, 4-Aminopyridine has the ability to artificially induce a bird’s natural fright response. This peculiar behavior is interpreted by the remainder of the flock as an alarm or distress reaction that frightens the flock from that location.

Applied as an acute oral toxicant, it causes the reaction in the birds that is similar to an epileptic seizure. Birds eating the treated bait will emit behaviors ands sounds indicating they are frightened or injured, causing the rest of the flock to leave the site.

Another problem with pest birds is that their fecal matter can build up quickly on buildings, machinery and other equipment. As a result, dairy farmers face higher maintenance costs and shortened equipment life. It has been estimated that pest birds cause over $800 million dollars in damage per year to agricultural operations.

“Starlings often come to dairy farms during the fall and winter months, often numbering in the thousands,” Dillingham says. “The product we recommend for starlings is the Avitrol Double Strength Corn Chops product.”

Every dairy farm is different, so the Avitrol team works closely with each farm they service and can help customize pest bird control solutions specific to your needs.


Understanding Behavior

Over the years the Avitrol team has helped several dairy farms overcome issues with pest birds. One particular dairy farm had been using the product for a short period of time, and reported back that they were having difficulty getting the birds to take the bait.

“Typically when we see this, it is due to the fact that the applicator has not rotated their pre-baiting and baiting cycles,” Dillingham says. “Fundamentally our product works by causing a few birds to react with distress signals, and those signals scare the rest of the flock away. At that point, the affected flock will never come back to the site.”

However, as Dillingham explains, if you don’t properly rotate out your pre-baiting or live baiting cycles, the birds will begin to associate their reactions with the bait and not with the site.

“When this happens, you’ve got a case of ‘bait-shyness’ to deal with in order to get them feeding again,” Dillingham says.

The Avitrol team advised the dairy farmer to switch their live bait out with pre-bait, wait until the majority of the flock was feeding on the pre-bait (to get maximum results), and then come back in with the live bait mixture.

“Our suggestions worked, and within a few weeks they were bird free,” Dillingham says. “We think this really shows that it’s an easy product line to use, especially if you deploy it with the right strategy.”

Farmers often find that they will either pay now to take care of their pest bird problem, or pay more later by not dealing with it immediately. And while various types of pest bird deterrents are used within the agricultural industry, including recorded alarms, propane cannons, and even traps, Avitrol is the only true chemical bird control product on the market. Devices and exclusion techniques can cost thousands of dollars to install and are often impractical in a farm setting. Avitrol can take care of pest bird problems for a small fraction of the cost, and is easy to apply.

“By taking the time to quickly take care of the problem before long-term problems start to occur, pest bird problems can be taken care of quickly with long-term results using Avitrol,” Dillingham says. “Bird control should be a priority and not an afterthought when pest bird problems become out of control.”