Summer flies pose a real risk

Whilst the weather of July may been disappointing to most of us, it would appear to have been the perfect condition for flies.

Summer is the time where flies are most abundant, but farmers have been reporting massively increased numbers this year.

To humans they are often nothing more than an irritation, however, they can create much greater problems to animals.

By now the majority of sheep flocks have been clipped. One of the aims of this is to aid management of Blowfly strike.

When a sheep becomes ‘struck’ it is a consequence of the damage maggots do to healthy tissues. The destruction of tissue and production of toxins can be severely debilitating, leading to death in the worst cases.

Maggots follow hatching from eggs produced by flies. A preferred site to deposit eggs is dirty fleece. A combination of clipping and the use of fly-repellents are used to dissuade flies from egg-laying.

Open wounds are another favourite site to drop eggs so farmers are careful to check their stock for this on their daily rounds.

Rams are notorious for ‘butting heads’ as a means of flexing their testosterone-fuelled muscles, and wounds created by this are ideal for a fly to lay eggs so repellents are often applied liberally around their heads.

This problem is not confined to farm animals. The small animal vets usually see a handful of cases each year where rabbits have suffered a similar maggoty fate. Their outdoor lifestyle combined with a dirty undercarriage makes them a target.

Another condition that flies are responsible for is ‘summer mastitis’. As they move between animals they can transfer bacteria.

Transmitting certain bacteria to an otherwise healthy udder can create a nasty mastitis in cattle, horses and sheep. We have also had cases where the anatomically present, but redundant teats of bulls have been infected.

Again, fly-repellents are a mainstay of prevention, but prompt treatment is also important to preserve the udder tissue, otherwise the subsequent offspring may find themselves without a natural source of milk.

Whilst I am certainly not wishing the summer away, the advantage of moving into autumn is a reduction in the occurrence of these fairly unpleasant conditions.