Reduced Pesticide Fly Control in Feedlots and Native Rangeland to Conserve Dung Beetles and Benefit Beef and Sheep Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $21,287.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Linda Simmons
Whetstone Grazing, LLC
Peter Bauman
South Dakota State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: parasite control, grazing - continuous, grazing management, manure management, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, economic threshold, integrated pest management, traps
  • Production Systems: permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Nzi Fly Trap Instructions

    APHIS Summary of Cattle Parasites on US Operations

    Dung Arthropod Overview


    This producer-managed project demonstrated the practicality of carefully reducing pesticide use while still practicing good and profitable animal husbandry.  Groups of cattle in a commercial beef herd were subjected to a reduced pesticide strategy using non-chemical controls, integrated pest management or IPM, grazing rotation and monitored with fecal sample analysis, horn fly counts, and short films. The role of the grassland ecosystem in livestock production was emphasized in the strategies and in the outreach.  Pesticide resistance and reduced pesticide parasite control were documented in the project ranch. Practical methods for producers to study their own pastures were refined and described for use in “A Dung Beetle’s Place on your Ranch” published on the SARE website.  A number of other information products were created and uploaded to this project website. The services provided by dung beetles were demonstrated in relation to parasite control in cattle, nutrient recycling and fly control.  The project included a trial of an actual Walk Through Horn Fly Trap built from plans from the University of Missouri. It was used for non-chemical control of horn flies on cattle and deployed successfully. Other non-chemical controls demonstrated were Nzi traps, which is a trap for flies, and grazing rotation. Fortunate timing of research on dung beetles by ARS/SDSU/Blue Dasher Farms supplied photos and scientific documentation of dung beetle species and populations at work within the project area and is reflected in media products published on this project’s SARE site.


    Because a pasture depends on multiple species of plants and animals to produce forage from soil, air, sunlight and water, it can be viewed as an ecosystem.  The essential functions of the ecosystem for grazing animals must be preserved in order for livestock production to be efficient and profitable.  The sanitation of grazing areas and plant nutrient supply is enhanced by fast dung break down/ decomposition,  which is accomplished by a healthy population of dung beetles in northeastern South Dakota and the North Central Region along with many other organisms in pastureland.  Flies are a major economic drain and main pest of cattle in the North Central Region costing millions in lost beef production.  Parasites of cattle also reduce production by millions each year in spite of wide use of chemical pesticides targeted toward internal parasites.  Coccidea / Eimeria species of microscopic parasites are a major cause of lost production in pastured calves and chemical control is usually impractical and somewhat ineffective. The pastureland ecosystem provides the majority of pest control and forage production, making it the engine of grassland livestock production.

    Finding ways to enhance and protect the functions of the ecosystem for livestock production was the focus of this project. Dung beetles were found to be a major player in two out of three of the project pastures.  Even with limited data the expected connections were seen. 

    Project objectives:

    The main objectives of demonstrating non-chemical pest controls and finding ways to study dung beetles and pests were reasonably accomplished. The field day June 18th , 2015 was well attended and some short films were made and posted on YouTube for follow up.  An actual Walk Through Horn Fly trap was built and used to take horn flies off of 80 cow calf pairs. The success of the trap was shared in the SARE information products and at the field day.  The plans for the Nzi trap had been offline but are once again available on this project's site thanks to the courtesy of Steve Mihok, PhD, one of the lead scientist in Nzi trap creation and study.  Producer input during the project indicated that producers are interested in alternatives to pesticides, reducing pesticides, and in the benefits of dung beetles, but they don't have enough information to take action.  The most common question heard was "how do I know if I have dung beetles?" and posting instructions on a valid method to take dung samples and check them for dung beetles might be the most valuable part of the project.  The list of dung beetles species found by Jacob Pecenka that is also part of "A Dung Beetle's Place on your Ranch" should encourage producers in the North Central Region to look for dung beetles on their land.  The fly traps and grazing rotation suggestions should help them reduce pesticide use and preserve or enhance dung beetles to reap the benefits of faster nutrient cycling, better sanitation, and pest control that dung beetles are known to provide. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.