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By Jeremy Plesman
Ruminant Sales Coach
Grand Valley Fortifiers

Over the last number of years, our summers in western Canada seem to be extending longer in term and more extreme in range. Everything from record breaking heat to long stretches of drought we seem to continually be having to conquer more challenges with our animals as producers all whilst chasing our high efficiency targets continually.

Through research, flies have been shown to have huge economic ramifications not only due to the cost of fly control practices, but also on the drag in production efficiency of our animals. Whether that be milk production, meat production, or fertility. All of these are directly impacted by the reduction in energy due to the time spent not eating but, rather dealing with the flies or the diseases brought by the flies.
Research has given us numbers on the efficacy of garlic supplement for pasture cattle. The numbers are quite impressive at 52% and 56% respectively fewer flies on the groups of cattle with garlic supplementation compared to their control group counter parts on two separate studies.

Another meta-analysis of studies calculated the lost economic gain anywhere from 6-26 kg of BW gain/beef cow or approximately $23.00-$100.10 (based on $175.00/CWT) and 139 kg of milk or $132.38 (based on $98.10/HL) over the fly season. (Catangui 1992; Wieman et al. 1992, Campbell et al. 1993; Catangui et al. 1993, 1995, 1997). That is just the average loss of production for these animals not including the treatment costs, management time, or any mortality, to get them through.

Garlic has been shown to be a very effective homeopathic route to help your herd navigate the fly season. The best part about garlic supplementation is no extra work or management is required by a producer, it is just an additive added into your feeding regime (full feed, supplement, premix/mineral) and consumed daily by your herd starting 1 month prior to the summer heat and running till the first killing frost, usually end of September. Our recommendation is to run garlic in your feed program from May 1 in western Canada to September 30th.

The garlic product is a naturally occurring compound from the chemical reaction of sulfurous alliin with the enzyme alliinase to produce allicin. This is the odour exuding compound that the animal exudes through its skin and deters the flies from landing and biting. Once we remove the food source for the flies, they move on and leave the animal in peace.

The key to a high efficacy with this is managing the amount of product you are targeting consumption at to your animals BW (bodyweight). The smaller the animal the less they need to consume, but as they grow in BW (and yes breed matters) the more garlic supplement/animal they require. The key is to ensure your target is going to meet your cattle size requirements. The initial data on this product was researched in partnership with the Ministry of Ag in Saskatchewan and found that 2% of their target salt intake was sufficient to see significance in fly deterrent, but that was on mid size framed red angus animals. What we have since found is managing to a % of BW is much more effective for significance on fly deterrent. This correlates better feeding to smaller heifers as well as larger breeds or dairy cattle than a blanket 2% of salt intake that may not be equal to all animal sizes.

When you compare the cost of the garlic product to conventional pesticides, the economic gain shines again. The cost of the garlic will run you approximately $0.054/animal/day for a large sized animal, which over the course of the 5 month feeding period will become $8.10/head. Pesticides are stated to be most beneficial or have an effective period of 8 weeks. Based on the same fly control season of 5 months we would require 3 treatments (applications) for the same 150 day period of the fly season at a cost of $0.245/ml. For a large sized animal the recommended dose of 12 ml/animal/treatment (application), the cost would be $8.84/animal. Overall this gives us a slight advantage having a lower cost of ingredient with the garlic product along with no extra management time or treatment time to the producer.

As consultants advising to producers on how to maintain maximum health and
efficiency of your cattle garlic supplementation for summer fly control has become one of my go to standards, and I have been anything but disappointed. And who doesn’t like having your barn or pasture smelling like pasta night…

This article was written for the Spring 2023 Dairy Grist. To read the whole Dairy Grist, click the button below.