Standard Operating Procedure on many farms is to administer a chemical anthelmintic and/or boticide every six to eight weeks, year ‘round, no matter what. We’re trying some techniques that may make such frequent administration unnecessary. Most are aimed at preventing the horses from reinfesting themselves day after day.
When a new horse arrives at TREES, he or she is kept isolated from the other horses. This serves several purposes, but one is to keep a new horse with a potentially heavy parasite load from infecting pastures, paddocks or drylots occupied by other horses. The newcomer is kept separately for several months, being dewormed twice during that period. Manure is picked up in the area at least once, often twice, daily.
In established pasture groups, manure is picked up every day when possible, but is left no longer than three days. According to a report by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (Australia,) “the egg of the small strongyle may take between three to five days to hatch, depending on the temperature. When hatched the larvae develops from first instar larvae to second instar larvae and migrates from dung to pasture as encapsulated third instar larvae.” Cleaning up manure several times a week will hopefully break that cycle.
To monitor the effectiveness of this program, TREES gathered the tools needed to perform on-site fecal egg counts at regular intervals. Results will allow us to administer chemical dewormers only when needed and will also tell us whether or not some horses are prone to heavier parasite loads than others.
Boticides will be administered once or twice a year, but to lessen the load, all horses are examined daily during the summer for bot eggs which are removed immediately upon discovery.
Picking up manure on a frequent basis helps control fly populations as well as internal parasites, but as a whole, flying critters are almost impossible to eradicate entirely. Poop-scooping is an obvious step in controlling fly populations. Here are a few other things TREES does:
All of our residents eat “mush,” which is simply Triple Crown Senior Formula soaked in warm water to an oatmeal-like consistency. Since many elders tend to drop feed as a result of dental challenges, the mush ends up on walls, in stall corners, smeared on stall gates and on the horses themselves. Even after it has dried, leftover mush attracts a lot of flies. To combat this problem, a whisk broom and dustpan is always nearby. Walls and gates are brushed off after meals, corners are swept, and horses’ faces and legs are cleaned when necessary. Flies are experts are finding the tiniest bits of leftovers, so all feed dishes are removed from stalls and rinsed or scrubbed after each meal, even when they appear clean.
Because flies can find bits of food the humans miss, many TREES residents wear fly masks and boots during the day. It seems that no amount of grooming or washing can remove every mush molecule once Sonny or Rienzi smear breakfast all over their lower legs. Fly masks andboots do not affect the fly population, but they do keep the horses more comfortable.
Another control measure involves good old-fashioned fly strips. Strips are hung in stalls and run-in sheds, especially near feeding stations. They do a good job, but need to be replaced often. Fly strips are useless once full.
“Fly Predators” also seem to be effective. We’ve noticed a drop in numbers since beginning to use them, but because our neighbors also have both horses and cattle (and also use fly predators,) the total number of animals on adjacent farms makes a very attractive environment for flies. We'll continue to experiment with numbers of "predators" and methods of application. We will also be adding an Epps Biting Fly Trap to the program to help with horse flies, deer flies and other large biting pests.
Mosquitoes and other flying pestilence
While flies are a big problem around many farms, mosquitoes warrant attention too. Several very unpleasant, sometimes fatal, equine diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile Virus is one example. During wet years it’s hard to do anything about puddles, but under normal circumstances, there are a few easy steps toward reducing mosquito populations. Most obvious is to eliminate standing water. Turn empty containers upside down so they don’t collect water. Don’t allow old tires to collect on the property. If you maintain bird baths, dump and refill them twice a week. Horses’ water tanks and troughs should be dumped and refilled twice weekly as well.
TREES also encourages resident bluebirds, barn swallows, bats, toads, and frogs. As a matter of fact ALL insect-eating critters are welcome here!
Bluebirds Forever tells us that “bluebirds eat large quantities of insects, in fact 60-80% of their diet is insects.”Currently, only one bluebird house graces our fences, but plans to mount several more are underway. Bat houses will also be added this year. Toads have voluntarily taken up residence under all of the water tanks, requiring a little extra care when cleaning the tanks. Some toads can consume well over half their body weight in insects each day. Barn swallows often nest in sheds, run-ins and barns. BirdWeb says “Barn Swallows eat mostly flying insects, especially flies…..”
According to “Chiroptera: Life History & Ecology,” “Insect-eating bats are supremely good at what they do: a single little brown bat can catch and eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour.”
Traveller’s Rest has been lucky in the tick department. For the last five years, the only control measure required has been our “tick buffers.” The grass outside all fences is mowed very short. This seems to keep the ticks in the woods or in unused meadows, whether on our property or the neighbors. Walk in the woods or “tall grass,” though and all bets are off!
TREES’ pest control measures require a little extra work each day, but since most are free or cost very little, it seems worth it to provide a more comfortable, and cleaner, greener, living space for the elders.
More Fly Deterrent Tips
Short of erecting a glass bubble over the entire farm, there is no way to completely eliminate flies, but here are a few tips to lessen the problem:
Muck stalls at least once daily. We do ours 2-3 times a day, depending on how much time the horses have been inside.
In addition to picking up manure, remove all wet bedding, whether the moisture is from urine, water buckets, or rainwater.
Pick up old hay not eaten within 24 hours.
Pick up manure in sheds or in loafing areas at least once daily.
Pick up all quids (wads of hay spit out by dentally challenged horses) left in stalls and sheds. They attract as many flies as manure does.
Remove feed buckets from stalls or sheds between feedings. If you serve "mush" or soaked feed, rinse buckets and pans well after each meal.
If your horse is a sloppy eater, clean food from walls when necessary.
Use wide, shallow feed pans when possible so your toothless wonder does not smear food up to his eyebrows. If he does manage to plaster his face with food, use a soft wet cloth to clean him up before the food dries. Clean his legs, too, if he tries to clean himself up by wiping his muzzle on his legs.
These tips take just a few extra minutes, if done every day or at each meal and greatly reduce fly-induced discomfort.