Evaluation of a commercial vacuum fly trap for controlling flies on organic dairy farms

M. J. Kienitz, B. J. Heins, R. D. Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a commercial vacuum fly trap (CowVac, Spalding Laboratories, Reno, NV) in on-farm organic dairy production systems to control horn flies, stable flies, and face flies. As cows walk through the trap, flies are brushed off the face, flank, and back with hanging flaps and blown off the belly, udder, and legs from one side, and then vacuumed from the air into a chamber from vacuum inlets opposite the blower and above the cow. The study included 8 organic dairy farms during the summer of 2015 in Minnesota, and herds ranged from 30 to 350 cows in size. The farms were divided into pairs by location; during the first period of the summer (June to July), the trap was set up on 1 farm, whereas during the second period of the summer (August to September) the trap was sent to its paired farm. Farms were visited once per week to collect and count flies from the trap as well as count and record flies on cows. Bulk tank milk, fat, and protein production and somatic cell count were collected on farms during the entire study period. Data were analyzed using the GLM procedure of SAS (version 9.3, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC). Independent variables for analyses were the fixed effects of farm, trap presence, housing scenario, and summer period. Horn fly numbers on cows were lower by 44% on farm in the presence of a trap (11.4 vs. 20.5 flies/cow-side) compared with the absence of a trap. Stable fly (5.4 vs. 7.1 flies/leg) and face fly (1.0 vs. 1.0 flies/cow) numbers were similar on farm whether the trap was present or absent on farms, respectively. Milk production was similar for farms with the trap (15.5 kg/d) compared to without (15.3 kg/d) the trap. Bulk tank milk, milk components, and somatic cell count were statistically similar in the presence and absence of the trap, so potential benefits of the trap for those measures were not evident at low fly populations observed during the study. The presence of a trap on farm reduced horn fly population growth rates (−1.01 vs. 1.00 flies/d) compared with the absence of a trap. Cows on farms with no housing (100% pasture) tended to have reduced horn fly numbers (11.7 vs. 28.3 flies/cow-side) in the presence of a trap compared with the absence of a trap on farm. Cows on farms with housing had similar horn fly numbers (11.2 vs. 14.8 flies/cow-side) in the presence of a trap compared with the absence of a trap on farm. In summary, these results indicate the trap was effective in reducing horn fly numbers on cows and reduced horn fly growth rates during the pasture season in organic dairy production systems, but benefits in improved milk production were not evident likely because of relatively low fly populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4667-4675
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors express gratitude to Darin Huot and coworkers at West Central Research and Outreach Center (Morris, MN) for their assistance in data collection and care of animals. Furthermore, the authors express gratitude to the 7 individual organic farms who allowed us to visit their facilities weekly for data collection. This work is supported by Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative [grant no. 2012-51300-20015/project accession no. 0230589] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Washington, DC).


  • CowVac
  • horn fly
  • organic dairy
  • stable fly

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