North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority district veterinarian Phillip Kemsley inspects dairy cattle on a farm at Dobies Bight, near Casino, already wearing purple insecticidal ear tags designed to help deter buffalo fly.
North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority district veterinarian Phillip Kemsley inspects dairy cattle on a farm at Dobies Bight, near Casino, already wearing purple insecticidal ear tags designed to help deter buffalo fly. David Nielsen

Buffalo fly problem bites early

THE blight of buffalo fly has hit cattle herds across the Northern Rivers early and in big numbers this season.

Rural supply outlets are rep-orting huge sales of insecticidal ear tags used by farmers to control the biting pest.

Casino Rural Traders manager Mark Olive reported selling 10,000 ear tags in one day.

“It’s unusual,” Mr Olive said.

“It’s been so bad this year.”

Mr Olive estimates ear tag sales are up by more than 40 per cent.

North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority district veterinarian Phillip Kemsley said increased humidity in the lead-up to Christmas might have been a factor in the early onset of buffalo fly.

“We normally expect farmers to treat them just before Christmas,” he said.

However, farmers have beenreporting large numbers of flies for more than six weeks.

Farmers in the southern parts of the Northern Rivers appear to be hit worse than those in the north.

The flies, which breed in cow dung, feed on sores, transmit pink-eye, cause irritability, interrupt feeding and in dairy cows can reduce yield.

The fly problem is worse for British breeds, bulls and dark cattle and is only occurs in the tropics and subtropics.

Buffalo fly can be controlled through chemical backrubs, insecticidal ear tags or chemical sprays. They can be also controlled through the use of organic methods such as fly tunnel traps, through which the livestock must walk in order for the flies to be caught.

Dung beetles can be also used to break the breeding cycle of flies in cow dung.

THE COST OF BUFFALO FLY

Control of buffalo fly is estimated to cost the Australian beef industry as much as $30 million each year.

Ear tags cost about $6.05 each.

One in each ear is required to control flies for four months.



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