The Pesky Truth “You can’t control pests if you aren’t controlling your facility. Your first line of defense is always a clean barn.”

Published on Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:44pm

 The Pesky Truth
 “You can’t control pests if you aren’t controlling your facility. Your first line of defense is always a clean barn.”

 By Aly McClure for American Dairymen

As we move into the warmer months, we must realize the inevitable is coming sooner rather than later. Flies and pests of all types will be making their debut. If you have struggled with pest control in the past, this is the year to take control. Exposure to insects and mites causes lowered feed conversion resulting in lowered milk production. They can also put cattle at risk for developing pathogenic microorganisms that can cause hide damage and blood loss. Effective pest control begins with a clean facility and then is complimented by chemicals and parasites usage. As I have said before, you cannot disinfect filth.

The stress on the animal caused by pests can be enough to delay reproduction and stagnate your milking herd. We are in the game of efficiently producing milk. Therefore we need to take the measures that help us continue to do just that. Providing a comfortable environment for your cattle not only helps keep your milk production where it needs to be, but it is also the right thing to do. Our animals are our livelihood, but they are also under our care, being responsible in the way that we treat them is not only good for the individual bottom line but is also good for the agriculture industry as a whole. We are one team with the same goal - to efficiently and ethically produced food, clothing, and by-products for the use and enjoyment of consumers.
Because of overuse of pesticides in the recent past, pest populations have developed resistance to them and inadvertently destroyed natural enemies. Today, dairies should carefully consider the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPMs) programs. Depending on your location and operation type (conventional, organic, grass-fed, etc.) you may have different pest concerns but, in general, they should all look very similar. Developing an IPM is also useful for preventative measures should you ever face a negative exposure event. By having the IPM already in place, it allows you to prove that your dairy is taking modern steps for improvement within your facility.
When creating an effective IPM, there are several aspects of consideration to include in your policy as standard procedure.
•Sanitation standards to reduce pest friendly feeding environments.

•Sealing up open points in facilities using things like caulk, mortar or screens to reduce opportunities for pest entry.
•By keeping things like dumpsters away from direct contact with facilities.
•Reducing or eliminating habitats by keeping old equipment, storage facilities, parlors, etc. clean. Keeping grass trim and tidy also helps to reduce mice/snake habitat.
•You can take multiple approaches to reducing the population, combining them is a very effective option. Traps, repellants, parasites, and chemicals.
Using parasites is an interesting and effective measure for controlling pest populations. Most every insect pest has a parasite enemy that will attack them. Insect parasites are generally host-specific wasps or fly’s. Most are so small you will not be able to see them and won’t cause an issue in an already pesky environment. An effective way to quickly reduce populations, an adult parasite can lay hundreds of eggs in hundreds of hosts. The parasitic larva lives in/on their chosen host and kills them only once that have reached maturity.
There are many resources on the internet that can be used to create your IPM, using standards specific to your operation. You can also go the route of hiring an IPM coordinator to develop and initiate your plan.
By using a combination of pest controls, you will have greater chances of success. But, failure to control pests not only affects your cattle, it can also cause health concerns for the public either through your product or in the shared environment. While we will never fully eliminate pests, nor do we want to, it is possible to reduce their presence to provide a comfortable environment for your cows. The last thing we want to do is draw negative attention to our operations, that is easily preventable, in an already agriculture negative world.