Sunday, October 9, 2016

Let's Talk Fly Frustrations

Flies. They are the donkey owner's worst nemesis. They itch, crawl, buzz and bite. Now, with summer winding down, donkey owners everywhere are finally feeling some relief. If someone had the perfect answer to fly control, everyone would be using it. There are so many products, salves, potions, sprays, can get overwhelming! Donkeys are way more bothered and harmed by flies than horses. Their skin seems a bit thinner, their blood more tasty. Flies tend to mostly bother the lower legs of donkeys, causing major issues and infection.  Fly masks are very important for your donkeys' eyes. You can get ones with mule ears on them from Cashel, but you may need to extend the ear tips yourself.  Having tried many of the "solutions" here at Foghorn Farm Donkey Training, I will give you the things that have worked best for us. Now, depending on your animal, your flies, your environment, these options may or may not work. However, it is a place to start!

1. The number one thing you can do is keep your property clean and DRY. Drainage is super important, as is mucking immediately after a storm.  Mucking daily or twice daily is important. Get ALL of the manure.  Either trucking off  your property or spreading and dragging your manure to break it up away from your paddocks is preferable. Using Sweet PDZ or a similar product on urine spots can help dry them and make them less attractive to pests. Here, we have neighbors who don't use the best manure cleaning practices, so despite our efforts, it's a problem that takes constant work.

2. Fly spray. Piranha seems to be a brand that actually works, at least for an hour or two. However, if you or donkey has any sensitivities, it's not a great product, because it is pretty strong and toxic. NO fly spray I have found actually lasts all day. Bronco works fairly well and seems to cause less sensitivity. I believe different flies in different areas may respond to different sprays. On a related subject, if your donkey is still getting used to being sprayed and is afraid, you can use a soft cotton glove  or rag and spray that, then wipe down your donkey. This may be a more effective way of spreading it evenly anyway.

3. Socks. Yes, they fall down. Yes, you need to pull them up several times a day. You can get innovative with the use of some vet wrap (so long as you check and change it every three days or so, vet wrap will tighten as it ages and cut off blood supply to your donkey's legs and even cut them!) to help keep the socks up. Tight, stretchy, slippery tube like socks work best. Use a plastic bag from the supermarket over the hoof to slip it over, otherwise it is very difficult. Socks are the ONLY foolproof way to keep your donkeys legs from being eaten, but they do require maintenance all day. They must be tight enough not to just slip off, so if your donkey's legs are small, it might be more challenging to find something that works. Since a lot of donkeys I have met are prone to pressure sores on their knees, fetlocks or hocks, socks on those areas will prevent those sores from happening and attracting flies in the first place.

4. Fly predators. I haven't used these personally here, but I have had some good input about them from others. We did use them at a barn I worked at, and I'm not sure I saw any difference, however, the neighbor had cattle and their area was disgusting, so who knows...maybe they were only able to make a small dent!

5. Fly wraps. I have some clients who have had good luck with custom made fly wraps. However, in my experience they fall down and crumple, losing effectiveness. Now, perhaps using them over socks if they are custom fitted might work? Have not tried that one yet...but I might!

6. SWAT. SWAT is pretty effective at keeping flies off of existing wounds. You can also coat the inside of the ear to keep them from being bothered.  Running a stripe of it down the midline of the belly  and the genitals can keep summer sores from appearing. I prefer only to use it if I really have to!  It gets goopy and must be washed off when it gets buildup and gets dirt mixed in. So it isn't my favorite, but I feel like it is important to have in the fly control/wound toolbox.

7. Fans. We plan on using two big industrial fans in our barn next summer, one each pointing towards the jennet side and the gelding side of the barn. Keeping air circulating on hot, still days can blow flies off and provide some relief. We haven't tried it yet, however, it is an idea we really want to try next year!

8. Fly traps. They do catch flies, however, you may want to put them somewhere a ways away from your shelters. They do draw the flies, so might make that particular area worse, and depending on the type, they may have a really smelly attractant. The strips aren't super effective in that they just don't catch enough.

These are the best ideas we have come across so far. Please add anything in the comments section that has really worked well for you, and where you live. I do believe fly control effectiveness of certain methods has a lot to do with the region. In parts of Europe, cutting up a pair of pants and attaching them over the wither and hips while putting the legs through used to be pretty common, you can find older photos of it! So, get creative! No solution is too crazy if it is effective!

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