If you have cows, then you know that this time of year the flies can be a nightmare. And all it takes is for one cow to stab itself on a tree branch or dried grass stem to create pinkeye. Next thing you know those darn flies could be spreading disease to your entire herd.
Like everything else on our farm, we try and take a truly chemical free approach in all aspects of our operation and dealing with pests is no different. Once the flies became bad earlier this summer, I set my wife on a mission to find something simple and inexpensive to ward them off. She’s been making a simple bug spray for the kids for years and I figured that if it works for them, surely there is something that will work on a cow! Her research paid off with the first concoction she made, most of which is from basic household items you probably already have laying around. While it doesn’t get rid of 100% of the flies, it does get rid of over 90% of them very quickly and dramatically reduces your risk of spreading disease. It also gives the cattle some much need relief from these pests!
The recipe is quite simple, and the only item you may need to buy is an essential oil (although we had to buy the vegetable oil since we don’t keep any around for cooking). A middle of the road essential oil brand will do just fine for this purpose, so theres no need to dump expensive Doterra or Young Living brands into your mix. We used a “Now” brand we had laying around and it did the trick just fine.
Mix the following into a spray bottle:
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 TBSP essential oil (use either eucalyptus, mint, citrus, or citronella)
Directions: Combine in spray bottle and shake very WELL prior to each use.
You’ll find that the “shake very well” is an understatement, as the oils and water separate almost as fast as you can blend them together. I find that if I can catch the cows at the waterer drinking (heads down) or at the wire just before I rotate them into a new paddock (eager to be right where I’m at) that these are the best times to spray them. I then set my spray bottle to “stream” with just a little bit of side spray and I can really cover them pretty quickly and effectively. I intentionally aim for their faces since my biggest concern is pinkeye, but I also spray them down anywhere I see the flies congregating. They aren’t crazy about getting sprayed and tend to trot off a bit to avoid it so you may have to be sneaky to get them all. I’ll also just shoot streams of the mix out over the herd and cover as much and as many of them as I can. The mix is pretty inexpensive so I’m not worried about wasting some, a call to the vet for pinkeye is way more expensive. A cow who goes blind from pinkeye is really expensive!
In terms of reapplication, so long as it doesn’t rain (or rains very little) an application can last from a couple of days to a week or longer. Just keep your bottle handy when you go out to work on the cows and reapply as needed. This really does work, give it a try and see for yourself!