For many cattle farmers in the United State, face and horn flies are a constant irritation. Here’s a list of methods and tools to get rid of flies once and for all.

Spring and summer grazing is upon us, and it means taking care of livestock health. Rain has blessed many pastures in the States, which also means an increase in flies. Several types of grazing and barn flies could be not only annoying your cattle, but hurting them and your farm’s productivity.

Controlling flies has economic significance because they transmit several diseases and parasites in animals. Economic losses include decline in animal health and milk production. Flies could lead to more serious health issues if left unattended. Let us look at two major types of flies and how to prevent them.

Types of flies

"Horn flies" by Scott Bauer - USDA's Agricultural Research Service image gallery, Image Number K7265-11.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Horn flies” by Scott Bauer – USDA’s Agricultural Research Service image gallery, Image Number K7265-11.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

According to David Boxler, Extension educator-livestock Entomology at the University of Nebraska- there are mainly two key species of cattle flies that may concern you. They are the face fly and the horn fly.

Face fly

You will often see a cluster of face flies around the eyes or mouth and nose of an animal. Face flies are pasture flies that feed on secretion from animals such as their eyes or other types of secretion on their skin. It causes extreme irritation for the animals. Disease and infection spread by face flies includes pink eye, and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR). They also spread a nematode eye worm.

Horn fly

Horn fly is a really annoying and dangerous pest. These blood sucking insect can stay on pasture grazing animals most of the time and feed on their blood. During a hot day, they are often found gathered around the animal’s stomach, seeking shade. Horn flies are known to cause blood loss, reduced weight, reduced grazing efficiency, and a drop in milk production.

How to get rid of flies

Here are several ways you could get rid of flies from cattle.

1. Insecticide ear tags

Insecticide ear tags are one of the best ways to get rid of flies in your cattle herd. This method works particularly well if you pair your cow and calves before grazing them in the summer pasture. We recommend having ear tags on your cows when the number of flies reaches injury level, which is about 200 flies per animal. Use tags not only during the summer grazing but also throughout the year.

2. Use insect spray

If the flies get too aggressive, spraying them could be an effective weapon. We would take a bucket of insect spray with a pump on it and pray it onto the animal herd. Make sure your herd is well tamed or it might be difficult to spray them with insecticides. Use a four-wheeler or ATV and use a low pressure sprayer or mist blower to give your cattle herd a full coverage.

3. Waste management


Insecticidal eartag“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

For flies, most cost effective way of pest control is prevention better than cure. Remove all matters where flies can breed, grow, and reproduce. Clean all organic matter buildups, wash away urine and remove manure from the barns, sheds, pens and pasture.

4. Oral larvicides

Oral larvicides, in form of  feed additives. could be added to the animal feed and minerals to prevent fly larva from attacking them. The medicine passes through the digestive system of your animals into their manure which prevents fly larva from growing into adult flies. Make sure to use a safe brand of oral larvicide and use recommended dosage

5. Natural predators of flies

Natural predators of flies could be used to help you in your battle against flies. You could get some wasps that feed on fly larva and prevent fly larva from growing into adults by destroying them before they are hatched. Fly predators also prevent fly population by laying eggs in their pupa (cocoon) and feeding on their larva.  Wasps are excellent for this purpose because they never bother the cattle, and they are actually good for your pasture plants and garden. Some birds and free range chicken are also known to eat flies and other insects when they are foraging.


Several types of grazing and barn flies could be hurting your animals and your livestock production. Flies can attack all types of animals including bulls, cows, and calves. They are known to spread diseases and infection which can harm your farm production. You could easily get rid of flies using several techniques, including the natural way shown in this article.

Some of these methods, especially the natural way of pest control, could take some time before you see results. However, don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. In the long run, your herd will be a lot safer from the attack of pest flies.

Do you have a question or concern about livestock welfare? We could help. Click here to book a meeting with us.  Have you tried our DIY systems? If you would like to learn more about it, please contact us at 303-495-3705 . Click here for DIY plans for proven livestock feeding systems.  You can also get your Feed in A Box Microgreens (fodder) from us!

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Source: Sustainable Livestock Nutrition

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