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

    Proposal summary:

    All three co-operators are independent, small to medium scale commercial livestock producers.  They represent a typical northeast South Dakota producer in the type of livestock and marketing they do. In the experience of the producers and in the region pest flies cause substantial economic losses in livestock even when pesticides are used. Alternatives to pesticide control are underdeveloped and rarely used. Dependence on pesticide use and applying pesticides using conventional methods has resulted in pesticide resistance. Pesticide resistance does result in profit loss, sometimes very severe and pesticides have become a less effective tool. Biological control and mechanical control of pest flies could be used more often and perhaps replace many conventional pesticide applications.   A combination of sustainable practices that reduces or eliminates  the need for insecticides would enhance livestock production.  

    Successful integrated pest managment requires a coordination of practices and best use of existing resources such as dung beetle populations that reduce horn fly larva survival. Conserving the existing dung beetle population that is currently present in one of the project pastures provides an opportunity to accept the dung beetle ecological services into a pest management system. Using mechanical control methods may accelerate a transition to fly control strategies that are both economical and more environmentally friendly than conventional strategies being used now. Strategies for fly control are more effective if adjacent pastures and feedlots are included.  Effectiveness of fly control methods of any kind is better when neighboring managers cooperate.  The aspect of cooperation between adjacent producers is an important part of developing a package of practices that control flies at least cost and least environmental impact. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The performance target is developing a sustainable pest fly control system that is sustainable and cost effective.  Use of fly traps, walk through chutes that mechanically remove horn flies from cattle, fly predator releases to keep pest flies below acceptable thresholds will be used unless animal welfare or performance requires a rescue pesticide treatment which will be applied using the most low impact chemical product and method that is practical. Improving the diversity of beneficial insects may greatly reduce manure breeding fly populations on cattle and sheep in the project. Rotational grazing, mechanical fly removal, fly traps,  two species grazing and manure management are sustainable practices that will  be tried in concert to keep pest fly populations below economic thresholds.  The short term goal is to develop and test sustainable and low impact practices that suppress fly levels. The long-term goal is to establish a diverse and functional population of beneficial insects that provide a sustainable and sufficient level of fly control at pastures that is extremely cost effective.  The presence of dung beetles on the native rangeland in the grazing system was confirmed by the Project Coordinator in 2013. Fly predators will be purchased for use in the feedlots and farmyards. Previous SARE grants document the success of using fly predators to control flies in dairies. NZi fly traps have been tested in North America and Africa and found to trap large numbers of pest flies. Bruce style walk through horn fly traps have been also been shown by the University of Missouri to trap large numbers of horn flies. This project will use proven sustainable practices in concert and attempt to show that it is practical to do so in conventional sheep and cattle operations.

    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.