EQUUS ‘Farm Calls’ Podcast Episode 8: Fly Control on Horse Farms

Equine facilities are a ‘fly paradise.’ Help address that with these tips.

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Flies, mosquitoes and other bugs that annoy you and your horses are a constant battle in some parts of the country. In other areas, they are a seasonal issue with cold weather pausing the life cycle of most of these pests. In this EQUUS Farm Calls podcast, we chat with Bob Coleman, PhD, MS, an Associate Professor and Equine Extension Specialist at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

As Coleman noted, horse folks have animals that attract insects, and those animals produce byproducts that also attract pests. “Horse farms are a fly paradise,” he said.

So, what can we do to help counteract those horse-owning givens?

Environmental Measures

The main thing horse owners can do to cut down on the number of annoying insects is to “keep it clean,” said Coleman. “There also are a variety of products we can use in facilities and on horses.”

That means regular manure removal from facilities and pastures to help break the life cycle of many of these insects, as well as proper disposal of the muck. Coleman said that simply keeping the barn clean and good ventilation can help tremendously in reducing insects.

And while many horse owners try using fans to increase ventilation in stalls, “… in a lot of cases they don’t do much because they create little breeze,” he observed. “Most fans don’t move enough air fast enough to bother flies,” he explained, noting, “Larger fans can help. Flies don’t handle large volumes of air.”

In addition, Coleman said, you can use screens or hanging plastic to help keep flies out of barns or sheds. However, remember those also can keep flies in.

In feeding areas where you have offered hay, you will have hay mixed in with urine, manure and mud. “That is the perfect breeding grounds for flies,” he said, reminding horse owners to not forget about run-in sheds. “Get in and clean out the manure,” he advised.

Additional Strategies

Coleman also noted that dragging fields not only helps break up the internal parasite lifecycle but can help by destroying breeding grounds for flies.

Use of on-horse barriers such as fly masks, sheets and leg wraps can help protect horses, too, he said. “House flies hunt by sight,” he explained. “Research has shown that different kinds of blankets can disorient flies.”

Fly traps are another useful tool in an overall fly protection program, Coleman said.

One issue that some horse owners face is “neighbor management.” If your neighbor isn’t doing his or her part of cleaning up fence lines where horses or livestock congregate, then the flies can breed there and annoy your animals. “It can be hard to have that conversation,” Coleman said. “Lead by example,” he continued. “If your horses congregate next to the neighbor, be a good manager. Clean up manure in the tree line or fence line.”

Within the horse-made “fly paradise” that is your farm, you might also provide a different type of breeding grounds for pests if you aren’t managing your trash, he pointed out. “Keep it covered. That attracts flies just as much as manure,” he said.

In addition, of course, there are many types of fly control products that can help reduce the number of pests and deter them from bothering your horses (and you). Sprays, wipes and spot-ons are just some of the products you can use to keep horses from landing on, annoying and/or biting your horses. There are premises products and feed-throughs, as well—and horse owners have many different types of chemicals or natural biologics from which to choose.

This episode of EQUUS “Farm Calls” was brought to you by Farnam, makers of Mare Plus, Grow Colt and Vita Plus–supplements for every age and stage. Visit farnam.com to learn more about vitamin & mineral supplements for your horse. Farnam, Your Partner in Horse Care.