Does your farm have a fly problem? Here are five natural fly control tips that actually work.
What if you could create a “fly-free zone” for your horse during the worst fly times of the year? As an added bonus, you would not have to resort to using toxic fly control, which can put you and your horse at risk for illness.
I’m going to share with you a handful of proven methods that control flies in a synergistic manner. First off, a little tough love. In order for this to work, it’s important to understand that when you have an abundance of flies something is out of balance with your approach to horse care. Sure, you can blame your neighbors for your fly problems. That’s a common excuse many people use. However, since you’re reading this article, that’s most likely not you. So here are five fly control strategies that consistently work.
1. Feed your Horse an Appropriate and Natural Diet
A common pattern in the horse industry is the practice of choosing to feed poor quality food. My definition of poor quality is anything highly processed, as well as poor sources of mineralization, and not providing enough variety in the diet that – at the same time – will not compromise a horse’s soundness. When it comes to feeding a horse, most people reach for the convenience of conventional, highly processed feeds and supplements. If you feed your horse inferior food, which can cause poor quality, horrible smelling manure, then more flies are inevitable. Remember: a bad diet = unhealthy poop = more flies. A horse who’s fed an inferior diet results in one who is excessively toxic. Flies, by their very nature, are attracted to unhealthy, highly toxic animals and environments. So much so, that it’s only a matter of time before we create super flies, much like the issues we’re already seeing with parasite resistance. Feeding your horse naturally is beyond the scope of this article, but is one critical piece to investigate in order to control flies.
2. Manage Manure
As a responsible horse guardian, you’re aware of the importance of managing manure. In my book, Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care, I cover – within the context of a natural habitat – strategies that encourage your horse to help manage manure. It’s a powerful concept but until you upgrade your horse’s habitat, it’s important to implement some other kind of manure management strategy – and there are many. Other than my favorite, which is the strategic use of stud-piles, you’ll want to make sure you pick up your horses’ manure in areas where they’re confined, such as a small paddock. Create a compost pile that is far enough away from the main barn area but convenient enough for you to easily haul manure to it. One of my favorite companies for getting you started on learning about responsible composting is O2Compost (o2compost.com).
3. Encourage Beneficial Insects
When an environment is in balance, pests aren’t often a problem. One common practice is resorting to the use of toxic chemicals to combat pests and weeds. This inferior choice causes more problems than not. It puts your farm in danger of being out of balance in a variety of ways by creating a toxic, unhealthy property, which results in an abundance of more pests, such as flies. It’s time to invoke a principle that encourages beneficial insects. These insects help to balance out an unhealthy environment.
One way to interrupt a fly’s life cycle is the strategic and aggressive use of fly predators. I’ve been successfully using these critters for more than 13 years. When I first started, people thought I was crazy and that fly predators didn’t work. That was before it became a more accepted practice.
I’ve used them for not only my horses but for protecting my property from neighbor-produced flies. I’ve been in a variety of situations where flies were an issue – for example, being surrounded by more than 100 head of cattle. Additionally, I’ve also experienced being close to people who kept their horses in an unnatural manner, and those horses produced an abundance of flies, just like the cattle did. The reason I share this with you is that I often hear about people giving up on using beneficial insects because their neighbors won’t participate. That thought is not ideal. Rather, you have to incorporate another smart strategy, and that is to protect your perimeter.
You want to create a “super shield.” Think of it as a shield from neighbor residue. You can do this by using a combination of both traps and fly predators. As far as using fly predators, there’s plenty of information on this subject that you can obtain freely. The point here is, don’t ignore investing in this critical piece of managing flies. You will not regret it. If this strategy is used correctly and consistently, it will drastically reduce the cost of using fly spray, which in turn helps offset your cost of fly predators.
4. Use Fly Traps to Control Adult Flies
Although the use of beneficial fly predators will drastically control your fly population, there will still be adult flies to contend with. Choosing a good fly trap is essential for managing adult flies. Fly traps come in different forms. Most use an attractant. Some may be in liquid form while others use a sticky trapping system that may be tubular in design and yellow in color. There are a variety of options. A word of caution on using some attractants – you want to make sure you’re not using attractants that will also kill beneficial insects. If this happens, you’ll have to evaluate if the benefits outweigh the negative effects. From personal experience, it has not been a problem where I live, but that may not be the case for you. Regardless, it’s best to choose a non-toxic method to control adult flies.
5. Use Only Non-Toxic Fly Sprays
Did you know that most toxic fly sprays on the market are not safe to be used around children? So why would you use them at all? Remember, any time you spray your horse with one of these products, it’s inevitable it will also get on you. The downside to using conventional toxic pesticides to kill flies is twofold. It’s bad for the environment and it can cause toxic buildup in your horse and in you.
My goal with every choice I make is to eliminate as many harmful chemical substances in my horse’s environment and diet as possible. Regardless, you and your horse are exposed daily to toxins. It’s a matter of how one’s body flushes them out that may result in good or poor health. Therefore, my number one strategy to promote radiant health for both my horses and myself is to eliminate the toxins I have control over – my choice in fly spray is one of them. There are plenty of recipes for homemade, non-toxic fly sprays, although one thing to steer away from are sprays that leave a greasy residue on your horse. What you’ll find is that once you put a successful and integrative fly control program in place, you’ll use very little fly spray. That’s what I’ve experienced over many years of implementing such a program.
A Balanced Approach
There are a variety of ways to create a practically fly-free zone. What I’ve shared with you here are just a few. The critical point to grasp is that the approach must be strategic, non-toxic, integrative, and support Mother Nature at the same time. In the long run, this approach is much healthier for not only your horse, but also your property, and you.
Stephanie Krahl is a natural horse care specialist, co-founder and CEO of Soulful Equine® and author of the book Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care. She teaches horse guardians about natural concepts that help their horses thrive. When she’s not with horses Stephanie loves watching movies, reading, and going to the gun range. Connect with her at SoulfulEquine.com