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  • Writer's pictureDyan Vorster

Things Friendly and Things Unfriendly

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

“He told them tales of bees and flowers, the ways of trees, and the strange creatures of the Forest, about the evil things and the good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

We all look forward to the long warm, days of Summer. After months of doing morning and evening chores in the dark and freezing rain, it’s a relief to see the sun rise and shed those heavy winter coats and rain boots! However, the warmer temperatures bring with them some unwelcome guests. Stable flies in the barn make life miserable for horses and humans alike. Biting flies irritate the horses out at pasture, causing welts and hives. Bot flies lay eggs on the horses’ legs and cause parasite infestations, and mosquitos can carry fatal diseases such as Encephalitis and West Nile virus.

As mentioned in my last blog (Black Gold), good manure management is a key component to effective fly control. At our barn we remove manure and wet bedding every day, twice a day, adding it to our compost heap where the heat generated helps to stop fly larvae from hatching. We also rotate and drag our pastures regularly to spread the manure and dry it out, thus eliminating another prime breeding ground for flies.

There is no doubt about it, you will find “things friendly and things unfriendly” in your barn. While spiders may not be your favorite house guests, I highly recommend allowing their webs to remain during the Summer months so that these amazing creatures can help in your war against flies and mosquitos! In the spring we add fly parasites along the fence line to our manure pile (fly parasites are tiny burrowing insects that are a natural fly predators). However, our most effective fly predators are our chickens. Our chicken coop is situated in the fenced off area where our muck heap is located, and they do an amazing job of scratching through fresh piles of manure and gobbling up any larvae. ( ).

We use a number of different methods to control the fly population in the barn. To lure them out of the barn we use fly traps hung from the rafters on the outer edge of our run outs. We have fans installed on our stall doors which also helps to discourage them from remaining inside as the movement of the air makes it harder for them to land on our horses. Plus, fans provide the added benefit of keeping our horses cool and comfortable in the hot summer months. We also sweep our feed storage area once a week to ensure that there is no dropped grain laying around to attract flies. Scrubbing out feed and water buckets is another important way to ensure that there is nothing to attract them to stick around (we do ours every third day). We also line our garbage cans, keep them covered, and empty them regularly.

To protect the horses while they are out at pasture, we spray them twice a day with a fly spray repellent made from natural ingredients that I mix myself (believe me, breathing in some of the poisons found in commercial fly sprays is not going to do your lungs any good, especially if you are spraying multiple horses twice a day!). Along with fly spray, we use fly masks to help protect our horse’s faces and ears ( ). In fact, you can go all out and purchase a fly sheet and leg wraps if your baby is of the more sensitive skinned variety!

While all of the above methods will go a long way to helping control fly infestations, nothing will completely eradicate these pests from your barn. Ultimately, you just have to accept them as one of the small prices paid for living on a farm.

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