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Livestock Pest Management: Info & Resources


For livestock farmers, grappling with pests is one of the most expensive and time consuming chores that comes with raising healthy animals. In both preventing and fighting pests, many factors come into play, including the time of year, the type of animal and the conditions in which animals live and are raised. Experienced farmers know that pests are more than a mere annoyance—insects and disease can have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Specific problems can vary greatly depending on the type of livestock. Read on for an overview of some of the most common pest problems and tips on preventing them.

Cattle Pests

A herd of beef cattle

Many beef cattle farmers find that internal parasites, or worms, are the most economically damaging pests. The more a pasture is used, the more likely it is to be infected. To prevent over grazing, employ rotational grazing, if possible. Also, once or twice a year, most cattle farmers use dewormers to deworm their cattle--killing the developing worms in the cow's intestine.

Particularly in warmer climates, such as Florida, Texas and Louisiana, flies are the most common external cattle pest. Irritable flies include: the common house fly, the face fly, bot fly, horse fly and horn fly—one of the most expensive to control. Horn flies bite through the cattle's skin and can suck up to a pint of blood a day. Heavy infestations not only irritate the animals, but the flies can weaken the cattle, slowing their growth. A few of the more common methods for fly removal include misters, dust bags, ear tags and mineral blocks.

Pink eye is a common cattle disease spread by flies. Cows with white around their eyes are more susceptible to pink eye than their black-eyed counterparts, as flies are more attracted to the cattle's eye fluids. Flies then spread the disease from one animal to the next. Farmers can vaccinate their cows for pink eye, and fly control will help stop the spread of the disease. Read our article on Controlling Pinkeye In Beef Cattle.

Louse populations are usually kept under control with the proper use of preventive insecticides. Keep areas clean and well-ventilated to help prevent problems. Note that if a herd is introduced to infected cattle, the lice can spread. Cattle lice are most commonly found on the top of the head, shoulders, back, neck and rump. Infestations are usually light in the summer and heavy in the winter and early spring. Read more about managing lice and mange in cattle during the winter.

Cattle grubs are another pest that have a major economic impact on cattle farmers. As adults, grubs disturb the cattle, and as larvae, they damage the meat and the hides. For best effectiveness, insecticides should be applied before the cattle are 6 months old, according to the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service. Insecticides can be sprayed, poured (like Cydectin) or spotted on.

Mange, a wintertime disease caused by mites, is highly contagious. Farmers should isolate the infected animals. Chemical controls are available, but in some cases, farmers are advised to sell or slaughter mange-infected animals to remove them from the herd. Consult your veterinarian.

Sheep And Goat Pests

Sheep and goats are notorious for grazing close to the ground; therefore, they're more susceptible to internal pests. In the wetter, more humid eastern states, worming is a prime consideration, whereas in hot, dryer climates, worms are more likely to dry up in the heat of the sun. While cattle farmers can get by with worming their cattle twice a year, sheep are wormed a minimum of four times a year, sometimes as often as once a month.

Flies are not as big of a problem for sheep because of their thick wool, but farmers may contend with fleeceworms in the spring and summer. Fleeceworm or wool maggot infestations start around the animal's crotch in wool contaminated with feces or urine. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recommends shearing the infested area and then treating with an insecticide. Farmers can prevent these infestations through ordinary tagging and docking. 

When conditions are damp, hot and muddy, goats and sheep are susceptible to foot rot disease. Foot rot disease is prevalent in the southern region of the United States and is caused by microorganisms that are found in contaminated soil. After the animals are treated, they should be transferred to a clean pasture that has not been exposed to infected animals.

Chicken Flies

In poultry operations, it is essential that fly populations be kept at low levels; otherwise, insecticides will provide only temporary relief. To interrupt the fly breeding cycle, broiler managers should remove manure, spilled feed and wet bedding as often as possible.

Manure accumulations will dry more quickly if moisture is kept at a minimum.

Tips For Controlling Chicken Manure

  • Ensure the environment has proper ventilation
  • Cut the grass and weeds around the building
  • Use fans to increase air movement and control the temperature

Contact sprays, fogs or space sprays can be applied to walls, ceilings and fly resting spots to quickly reduce fly outbreaks. While using insecticides, take care not to contaminate feed or water. Shop for pest control products including these sprays in our Livestock Store Section.

Other resources

Remember, whenever using an insecticide or other chemical treatment, always read and follow the instructions on the product label. For detailed information about the best ways to treat different pests, check with your veterinarian, local Extension agent or Southern States Store.

Southern States' livestock specialists are available to help answer your questions about the best way to protect your cattle, sheep, goats or fowl against profit-robbing pests. Do you have a story to share with other farmers? Let us know your thoughts below!


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