West Gingin beef farmer Shane Clifton said he has found calves near death in recent weeks because ‘stable flies are out of control.’
‘You can’t imagine the pain these flies inflict. It’s quite traumatic,’ he said.
‘The newborn calves are there in the heat of the day and the mother cow is kicking and stomping to try to get the stable flies off her,’ he said.
‘The mother cow gives up, goes back to the herd to get relief from the flies and then the calf is in the sun without the mother, getting dehydrated and virtually being eaten alive.
‘We’re talking thousands of flies attacking the calves.’
This scene is not uncommon in an area where there are market gardens, according to University of Western Australia entomologist David Cook.
He said a new, four-step stable fly management plan should result in a reduction in the flies.
‘The Shire of Gingin and I go out to see the market gardeners out in West Gingin quite often,’ Dr Cook said.
‘Growers need to adhere to the new plan, which includes high-speed mulching , using pesticide sprays on mulch residue, turning off the water and leaving the material for a week, so it dries out quickly and then incorporating it in the soil a week later.
‘If vegetable growers do this with every single crop, there will be a huge impact on reducing the flies.’
Mr Clifton said he had tried everything possible to help his stock but the onus was on the horticulture industry to make changes.
‘We have tried everything from an Aeroguard-type spray to natural sprays to chemical fly treatments but none of it is effective,’ he said.
‘We are going to have to build a shed to put our horses in, to protect them, because during the day they are getting eaten alive.
‘However, you can’t physically do that with 60 to 80 cows.
‘It is a horticultural problem, so the solution needs to be more radical than anything the industry has come up with so far.’
Dr Cook said the Biosecurity and Agricultural Management Act could be enforced on growers if they do not dispose of crops properly.
‘I know it’s no help to farmers who have the flies on their property right now but all industries are working together to get this problem under control.
‘I am quite confident things will get better ” if all the market gardeners follow the rules.’