Written by Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, Inc. (HOP)
Reprinted with permission, all rights retained by HOP.
Horse flies and flies have got to be one of the most annoying problems a horse owner can tackle. Though we all look forward to the warm season, flies can really get to be a serious and obnoxious issue. So what can we do about them?
Proper manure management is probably our foremost defense against these pests. A 1000 pound horse creates almost 50 pounds of manure per day! This is like heaven for a breeding fly. If your horse is stalled, picking up the manure as quickly as possible is a very good first step. Unfortunately, as a matter of convenience, manure piles are often located near the barn. This is a recipe for disaster. Once you remove the manure make sure to store it as far away as possible from your barn or better yet, use a manure spreader and avoid a large pile altogether.
Manure from horses grazing in your pastures needs to be dealt with as well. Areas where horses congregate such as water troughs, shady areas, run-in sheds and gates should be cleaned weekly at a minimum to diminish fly breeding and control parasites. Instead of picking your fields, you can drag them on a hot and sunny day to evenly distribute manure in a thin layer over a wide area. This will allow the manure to quickly dry out. As flies deposit eggs in the top few inches of moist manure, minimizing moist manure surface area is an effective fly reduction strategy. Flies cannot develop in dry environments, so spreading manure thinly is the first step in trying to break the fly life cycle.
Horse Fly Predators
Fly predators are nature’s first line of defense in controlling flies. As horse owners are getting more and more concerned about products that are safe for use on their horses and the environment fly predators are gaining popularity. Fly predators are tiny non-stinging wasps that are part of a total farm fly control program. These wasps both lay eggs in the fly pupa as well as feed on fly larvae while it is in the manure around your farm. By eating the larvae fly predators break the fly life cycle. In addition, the eggs the predators laid hatch and naturally increase their predator population on your farm. Although naturally occurring, fly predators are usually not found in large enough amounts to control the entire aggressive fly population at your barn. However it is because of the naturally occurring predators that without adding additional predators, your barn isn’t consumed by flies.
So where do you get fly predators? Many companies sell horse fly parasites and will ship them to you. When they arrive all you have to do is open the bag they came in and dump the contents on a small manure pile at dusk. These nocturnal wasps will do the rest and neither you nor your horse will probably ever know they are around. https://www.spalding-labs.com/…/fly_control_fo…/default.aspx – private
A word about this though. If you have close neighbors who do nothing to decrease fly issues, the fly predators will be a waste of money for you.
Fly masks and fly sheets can also be a very helpful defense to provide your equine with some relief. Flies are attracted to eye secretions and masks keep them away. They come with velcro fasteners and some can also be found permeated with UV protection: a useful thing for a horse that gets sunburned. Horses can see just fine through the mess and most tolerate these quite well. The velcro is not designed to be impossible to remove on purpose, so that if a horse gets hung up, it will release with no injury.
Horse Fly Repellent
There are two types of fly repellent available to protect your horse from adult flies, spray on and feed through. Many commercial fly sprays are available but we have used a home-made one that is quite effective and smells pretty good. A barn can also set up an overhead fly spray system, which periodically sends a fly mist out over each stalled horse. Water-based and plant based insecticides can be used with the insect control system so you do not have to worry about potential toxicity affecting your horses, dogs, cats and people that inhabit your barn. Solitude IGR has a good reputation as a feed through repellent. There are many others out there available to purchase. As flies “taste” with their feet, only they will know the horse smells and therefore taste bad. Humans will not be able to notice the difference. It takes a while to build up this bad tasting effect so it is recommended that you combine internal with external fly repellent at the beginning of the equine fly season. When using feed through repellent it is not necessary for every horse on your property to be receiving it in their feed.
Keep Your Barn Area Tidy
Your horse feed room is another potential fly haven. Make sure you sweep out the feed room each day to avoid having spilled feed lying around. Store horse feed in a tightly sealed container or an old freezer that won’t let the odors out and will prevent flies from getting in.
Look around your farm for potential fly breeding grounds. Do you have rotting round hay bales, loose straw or hay, mulch or leaves? Clean them up! Flies love laying eggs in moist organic material and a little preventative measures up front can go a long way when it comes to this issue. Also, make sure garbage is not readily accessible by flies. Open trash cans are not a good idea at a barn. Make sure all garbage is tightly covered or sealed in bags.
Remember, it’s easier and more effective to prevent fly breeding than to control adult flies. So the quicker you can remove their habitat, the less likely you are to see these pests.
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Editor’s note: For more great articles, like this one, be sure to visit HOP on Facebook and take time to go through the Educational Photo Album where they share insighftul information about some of the horses they have helped. (Caution: HOP rescues some seriously sick and injured horses, some images may not be suitable for children.)
Founded on January 1, 2009, Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, Inc. is 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity in West Virginia that helps horses, ponies, and donkeys in need in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.
Your generous donations are tax deductible and will go a long way towards helping abused, abandoned, and neglected horses in crisis. As of December 2014, HOP had rescued more than 200 equines.
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