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Fly control part of winning combination for Texas rancher

All it takes is a quick look around the Hidden Oaks ranch at Canton, Texas, to see that the right combination of genetics and environment produces some outstanding cattle, both on the ranch and in the show ring.

Hidden Oaks is operated by  David and Julie Berry and their two daughters, Emma and Katie. Emma won Reserve Grand Champion Red Angus at the Houston Junior Show. Prior to that, Hidden Oaks won the 2014 National Simmental Female Champion at the Ft. Worth Stock Show.

The superior genetics and animal care at Hidden Oaks is second to none and it consistently shows. While Berry says it’s the 50-lbs. to 75-lbs. of increase weaning weights and the natural early maturing, highly fertile and ability to give ample milk to raise a heavy weaning calf of the Simmental breed, he simply points to his fly control program as his ace in the hole.

“The old adage that everything is bigger in Texas certainly hold true when it comes to flies,” says Berry. “Horn flies, face flies and stable flies are on cattle as early as March and don’t leave until late November,” says the purebred cattle producer. “Flies are a financial problem all beef producers face, but they are extremely devastating in Texas where they are biting and feeding on cattle virtually year long.”

Berry, the current president of the Texas Simmental Simbrah Association, raises purebred Simmental in Canton, about an hour’s drive east of Dallas. In 2015 he was frustrated with his fly control program and decided to test a new add-pack feedthrough larvicide called JustiFLY.

“We were one of the first producers in the country to test this new feedthrough insecticide add-pack,” recalls Berry. “Since we don’t like to eartag our cattle until mid-May (due to the added stress and lack of longevity of the insecticide ear tags), we liked the idea of mixing a larvicide with our mineral to curb the fly populations until we could tag our cattle.”

According to Berry, the add-pack was like nothing he had used before. The EPA-approved add-pack contains 360-grams (8/10 lb.) of the Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) diflubenzuron, and is mixed one-to-one with a 50-lb. bag of mineral. “There was no measuring to worry about and we simply mixed one packet of the add-pack to one 50-lb. bag of our preferred mineral.”

Berry adds, “I liked that the new add-pack insecticide is labeled for four flies (horn, face, stable and house flies) instead of just horn flies. While horn and face flies are a constant threat, our cattle are always fighting nuisance, biting stable flies as well. The constant stress from biting flies really takes its toll on these animals.”

The longtime Texas cattleman adds, “I also liked that the insecticide was a different color (reddish brown) from our mineral, so it was easy to mix and easy to see the product was mixed evenly in the mineral feeders. Our employees can’t over-use the product because it’s already pre-measured. They grab one add-pack and one bag of mineral per feeder. It is that simple.” And,” he adds, “it’s extremely cost effective, especially vs. spraying cattle and handling insecticides.”

Berry notes that the results of the test far exceeded his expectations. “When it came time to tag the animals, we didn’t have any flies to speak of. Normally we have to spray the cattle before handling them because the flies are so thick. I really liked the consistent consumption of the product, too. As a matter of fact, even the calves liked the product. It’s rare for calves to eat out of the mineral feeders, but they consistently ate the product and the results were a noticeable reduction in flies, and especially horn and pinkeye-causing face flies,” he notes.

One specific area where the East Texas cattleman especially likes the results of the new add-pack was in his show pens. ”We have always fought flies on our show animals because we don't insert ear tags or spray oily insecticides,” he outlines. “We were highly impressed where we used the JustiFLY in our show animal pens. Virtually no biting flies and we even noticed a reduction in pestering stable flies and houseflies. Since our show animals are away from the commercial herd, we were able to rely solely on the feedthrough product for fly control,” he concludes. “We were not disappointed in the results last season and have already implemented it again this year. With all the rain we received this spring, we didn’t want to wait too long before starting the fly control program.”