Evaluation of Pasture Dragging as Non-Chemical Control Method for Filth Fly Pests of Pastured Beef Cattle

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,059.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: Dickinson College
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Matt Steiman
Dickinson College Farm

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing - rotational, manure management, parasite control, preventive practices, Fly management
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: cultural control, integrated pest management, physical control

    Proposal summary:

    The beef industry suffers major economic losses due to a complex of flies that feed on cow blood and/or mucus. For pastured cows, the most important of these pests are horn flies and face flies. Chemical controls for these pests are prone to failure due to resistance evolution and, moreover, they pose environmental and health risks. For these reasons we propose to evaluate a non-chemical control method that could be used in an integrated pest management plan for filth flies: pasture dragging. This practice is thought to benefit farms by spreading manure nutrients while reducing the survival of fly larvae in manure, but the effects on flies have not been scientifically evaluated. We propose to evaluate the efficacy of this practice on the Dickinson College Farm and share our results via the 2019 PASA Farming for the Future Conference, publication in a trade journal (e.g. Stockman Grass Farmer), and publication in a peer-reviewed science journal.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We propose to study a promising non-chemical management tactic for fly pests management: pasture dragging to break up manure pies with a light harrow. This practice is sometimes recommended for fly management (e.g., Kaufman, 2011; Rutherford, 2015) because the larvae of horn flies and face flies (together referred to as ‘filth flies’) feed in cow pads; and thus it is conceivable that spreading the manure will reduce fly survival through desiccation. But this tactic has yet to be tested scientifically—which we aim to do in this project.


    Kaufman, P.E., 2011. Applied management for fly control. University of Florida.

    http://animal.ifas.ufl.edu/beef_extension/bcsc/2011/pdf/kaufman.pdf (accessed 12.4.17).

    Rutherford, B. 2015. 7 tools to fight the war against cattle flies. BEEF.

    http://www.beefmagazine.com/parasites/7-tools-win-war-against-cattle-flies (accessed 12.4.17).

    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.