External Pests on Livestock

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cowSummer is a prime time for the emergence of external pests, such as flies and ticks. To avoid economic loss in the livestock industry, producers should use Integrated Pest Management practices to manage and control pests.


            External pests can range from insects, predators, to even rodents. Each pest has a different effect on different livestock, which can lead to loss in animal productivity by killing animals, spreading disease and parasitic worms, causing blood loss, and much more.


Proper management of livestock pests is reliant on accurate identification of the pest and its stage of life. Most common external pests of livestock fall into two classes, the Insecta, including flies and lice, and Arachnida, including mites, ticks, and spiders. Properly identification of these pests can be accomplished by knowing their appearance, habits, and detrimental effects.


 FACE FLY (Musca autumnalis)

The Face Fly is a non-biting fly that annoys livestock by gathering around the eyes, nose, mouth, and open sores or wounds. This fly is the carrier and transmitter of the organism that causes pinkeye in livestock.

HOUSE FLY (Musca domestica)

            The House Fly feeds and thrives in areas where manure or other decaying material such as hay, straw, or feed is present. House Flies are not only a nuisance, but is also responsible for carrying some disease organisms such as cholera, salmonella, mastitis, and pinkeye.

STABLE FLY (Stomoxys calcitrans)

            The Stable Fly is similar to the House Fly but instead, feeds on the blood of livestock. This fly is more aggressive and has a very painful bite. Livestock become annoyed and will spend time biting and throwing their head instead of grazing. Stable Flies tend to follow their hosts for long periods, causing animals to become irritated and can lead to loss of weight.

HORN FLY (Haematobia irritans)

            The Horn Fly is a continuous, blood-sucking pest. The flies feed on their host (livestock) 7 to 12 times daily. The flies often congregate on livestock in areas that the animal cannot reach to disturb their feeding. These areas include the back, base of the horns, neck, and the belly of the animal.


Proper pest management is crucial for the overall health of livestock. The first step of management is prevention. Being that most of the external pests lay their eggs in compositing materials or manure, keeping areas clean and free of degrading materials, such as, manure, leaves, and wet straw and/or shavings, removes important stages of multiple pest’s life cycle. The utilization of these methods decreases the number of emerging pests; therefore, preventing a large population influx.


In the case of pest emergence after preventative management, pesticide use may be permitted. Pesticides for external pests can be utilized through many application methods including premise sprays, topical sprays, ear tags, dusts, and rubs. The proper application method of a pesticide is very important to the success of that product. All pesticide labels should be read entirely before use to identify all application methods, withdrawal times, and warnings.


After proper identification of affecting livestock pest, a pesticide that best fits the type, age and stage of production of the livestock should be selected. The suggested application method and cost of the product should also be considered. Pesticides that are expensive and difficult to apply for the purchasing operation should be avoided. There are many pesticides that are affordable, easily applied, and very effective. Most all can be found in farm stores, chemical supply companies, or online.

When a producer is unsure of the proper pesticide that best fits their operation, it is suggested that they contact the Cooperative Extension Service for help identifying pests and sourcing pesticides.

For more information on external pests or pesticide application, please call Michelle South at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Mitchell County Center at (828) 688-4811 or email mcsouth@ncsu.edu.