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Farmers urged to report sightings of intensely irritating buffalo fly

The intensely irritating, blood-sucking buffalo fly has been reported in the Central West, prompting a call to farmers to report any sightings to their District Veterinarian as soon as possible.

Buffalo fly aren’t thought to survive all year round in the Central West, however they will migrate from the north and east of the state in the right seasonal conditions.

The buffalo fly, Haematobia irritans exigua, is a small biting fly, about 4mm long in size. It feeds off cattle and buffalo and causes irritation that can result in significant weight loss and a decline in milk production. Many infested cattle also develop sores in the inner corners of their eyes.

“In the past week, we have had reports of buffalo fly in the Quambone and Macquarie Marshes area,” said Dr Jillian Kelly, Regional Veterinarian with Central Local Land Services.

“We’re asking farmers to report buffalo flysightings so we can get a better idea of how many properties may be affected and how far they have spread.”

The buffalo fly originated in Asia, and has been present in NSW since 1978. In severe winters they are confined to small pockets on the far north coast, but mild moist conditions favour their spread to other parts of the state in summer and autumn.

The flies live permanently on the host animal, with females only leaving to lay eggs in freshly deposited dung. They bite and feed up to 40 times each day and can only live for one or two days away from the host. However, newly emerged flies will fly for up to 10 km in search of a host. The movement of infested animals can also spread the fly to new sites, particularly during mild weather conditions.

Cattle that are particularly sensitive to fly bites may scratch and rub themselves constantly. Bulls and dark-coated cattle, especially black cattle, appear to be the most prone to severe infestation.

“We have had reports that they have been present to our north and east for several weeks, so it looks like they have migrated down this way, rather than taken up permanent residence here,” said Dr Kelly.

“In most cases treatment is not warranted and it is expected that the fly will disappear with the onset of some colder weather.”

If you would like to report Buffalo Fly in your cattle or need further information, please contact your local District Veterinarian.

Find out more about buffalo fly from the NSW Department of Primary Industries Primefact Buffalo flies and their control, available from www.dpi.nsw.gov.au

For more information contact Dr Jillian Kelly, Central West Local Land Services Regional Veterinarian (6822 1588 or jillian.kelly@lls.nsw.gov.au).

Image available on request: Buffalo fly (Photo: Ian Poe)

Media contact: Rod Campbell (0447 430 160 or rodney.campbell@lls.nsw.gov.au)