Warm weather is here, and with warm weather come insects and the need to control them. Chemical control of flies and ticks has been around forever. Some years ago at the Noble Research Institute farms, standard fly and tick control meant getting out the trusty old cattle sprayer, mixing up a batch of that good-smelling stuff, gathering the cattle, and spraying. It worked but was time consuming, hard on the cattle, and a nasty job to boot.
We have come up with two portable rubs that are effective and allow us to rotate on pasture. The first is a wick style that can be purchased at most farm and ranch supply stores. There are a few styles on the market, and we have been using one called Cow-Life Cattle Rub.
We have to mix the diesel and Co-Ral to saturate the rub, but it's less apt to get all over us than if we use a spray. We can mix different strengths, depending on the amount of control we want, and mixing directions are printed on the label. The Coffey Ranch, for example, has a lot of timber. We charge the rub with a stronger mix to get tick control when cattle are in timbered areas, and when they aren't, we use a lighter dose that can control flies. Cloth face flaps can be purchased and tied onto the rub for better control of face flies. The rubs need to be re-treated after a significant rainfall. Other than that, it is a great timesaving device that works well.
Another rub that I designed for the Headquarters Farm about three years ago was the ear tag rub. An ear tag works because a tagged cow that licks her back deposits the fly-control chemical there. I devised a way to do the same thing without having to put a tag in the ear, which reduced the number of tags used. I made the same portable stand that we use for the wick-style rub and replaced the wick with a chain, using hog rings to attach the fly tags to the chain. I put thirty tags on a chain the first of May, and we had fly control until the end of July on seventy-five cows. Though fly control was diminishing by the third week in July, I left the original tags out and thought we got moderate control through September. The wick might work a little better, but the ear tag rub does work well and requires less maintenance.
People have asked how to get their cows to use the rubs, since the cattle just don't seem to want to use them. My answer is, it takes time for the cows to associate the rub with fly control. If you place the rub close to water points or mineral feeders, or attach the mineral feeder directly to the rub, you won't have to worry about your cattle using it during fly season.