An early spring green-up may have allowed you to shorten hay feeding season by a few weeks or a month. The downside for cattlemen, however, is that insects also got an early jump on spring.
“This is one of the earliest springs we’ve seen in a long time,” said Gus Lorenz, extension entomologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “The warmer-than-normal temperatures have allowed insects to get an early start this year. They’re developing at a faster-than-normal rate.”
For cattlemen, the biggest pest so far has been ticks. Oklahoma State University extension entomologist Justin Talley says adequate rainfall and warm temperatures in Oklahoma have been ideal conditions for ticks.
Two species of ticks are of primary concern for cattlemen. “The Gulf Coast ticks are the ones that invade the ears of cattle,” Talley says. “Lone Star ticks will be found on other areas of the animal, such as the brisket, legs or under the tail. Both species require warmth and humidity when they are off the animal, so this spring has been ideal for them.”
Last summer’s historic drought and hot weather limited tick problems, Talley says, because the ticks need humidity and forage to lay their eggs.
Talley recommends cattlemen watch cattle for heavy tick burdens, and spray the animals as necessary. He also recommends rotating cattle out of tick-prone pastures until later in the grazing season.
“Pastures that join a wooded area or a creek will have the highest tick populations,” Talley said. “Grazing pastures away from such areas early in the season – if possible – will help limit tick problems.”
Talley said cattlemen are also reporting much earlier than normal horn fly problems. “We saw horn flies in late March,” he said. “Horn flies are not usually a problem until May. Temperatures in the 70s during the day and in the 50s at night will bring out the horn flies.”
(Talley provides additional information about insects for livestock producers at: livestockbugs.okstate.edu.)
Horn flies are known as one of the most economically damaging pests to cattle, and Talley said cattlemen should be prepared to begin treatments earlier this year.
“Research has shown that horn flies can reduce weight gains by 1.5 pounds per week,” Talley says. “With cattle at today’s prices that makes horn fly treatment economically important.”
Entomologists suggest that humans are also likely to experience an increase in insect pest problems this year. Mosquitoes, for instance, are getting an early jump on the season, and with a longer season their numbers could increase. Mosquitoes, however, are dependant on standing water for breeding so dry conditions could limit mosquito populations later in the season.
“We will have an explosive season for mosquitoes,” Caroline Chaboo, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas told the Kansas City Star. “There will be many more chiggers and mites for people who are hiking outdoors.”