Prevention and control of flies for horses

Flies are a common pest when working with horses and are often irritatingly persistent.

Not only are they annoying, but flies can also be carriers for human and horse-related diseases. Horses tend to stomp when flies land on their legs, causing damage to their legs and feet. Along with this, some flies can give off painful bites that can make horse activities unpleasant and can cause stress to the horse and make them nervous and difficult to manage.

Flies are common enemies when it comes to horse keeping and you will only be able to minimise them, not eliminate them. However, there are certain things you can introduce that will make sure there are a few flies as possible and allow for you and your horse to enjoy your time together without these annoying pests.

Before you start using chemicals and other major steps to rid your stables of flies, try some simple management tactics to deter these pests from your horse’s living area. A successful fly control program relies on the timely elimination of breeding sites and moisture control.

Flies and other insects are strongly attracted to moisture and wet areas as they breed and drink there. Remove all still water that is not for drinking as well as possible problem objects such as tires and old feeders that could hold rainwater. Create good drainage around your stables and keep the stalls as dry as possible.

Horse manure is one of the biggest attractions for flies around stables and pasture. In order to minimise the flies around confined areas, clean out stalls and pens daily and store them appropriately. Breaking it up and drying the manure out will destroy their breeding sites or you can cover manure piles with a heavy tarp is also efficient. If possible, completely removing the manure from your property weekly is the best option.

Other than maintenance type measure to prevent flies, some mechanical controls can be quite useful:

  • The installation of strategically placed fans pointing towards the entry and exit will blast air that keeps flies away
  • Keeping food scraps, grains and other feeds covered securely at all times
  • At night, turn off stable lights as some flies and other insects are attracted to lights
  • Flytraps or sticky paper can be good to guide you on fly numbers in your stables. If there is an increase from one week to the next, you may need to check sanitation or increase control measures

The above measures are a good start to deterring an infestation, however, if you’re already overrun by these pests, a more substantial approach may be needed. Insecticides are used to kill adult flies after a problem has developed, although they do not kill the breeding source. A large fly infestation means there is a large breeding area or areas on your property and maintenance and cleaning is the only way to fully stop this.

Fighting flies with other insects or creatures is a viable option for those of you who don’t want to use chemicals around your horses. Fly parasites are the most common option as they are harmless to all animals and only have a short lifespan, but do control the population of flies. Wasps are another insect that acts much like the fly parasite and can be purchased in a species that doesn’t sting, allowing for no harm to be done to you or your horses.

With flies very common in most parts of Australia, these prevention techniques may not stop all the flies you’d hope. In this case, on-horse controls may be another route you wish to take in order to protect your horse. Fly masks and sheets are the most common option as they are breathable wraps for your horse to prevent flies landing on your horse and causing them stress or erratic behaviour.

Over the course of time, flies are going to hang around horses no matter what. It is pivotal to attack flies at their breeding areas and stop them before they develop into adult flies. By implementing these prevention techniques, you should be able to vastly minimise the number of flies and the impact they have on you and your horse.

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