Rancher uses garlic to keep flies at bay

LA BROQUERIE, Man. — Have you heard the one about the farmer who fed his cattle garlic to ward off not vampires, but flies?

Since 2010 Richard Carr, a cattle producer east of Steinbach, Man., has added garlic powder to his mineral to keep flies off his cattle in the summer.

Over the last three summers, Carr has heard every possible joke about garlic and cattle, including the popular jibe that he is producing pre-seasoned beef.

Recently, however, the critical comments have faded and cattle producers are now genuinely curious about the concept of repelling flies with garlic.

During a stop at his farm as part of the Manitoba Provincial Pasture Tour, held around Steinbach in late July, Carr told a group of 60 livestock producers and industry reps that pinkeye is now less of a burden on his farm, thanks largely to garlic.

“Since I’ve started (using garlic) I’ve had a huge decrease in pinkeye. I went from treating three or four animals per week, during fly season, to treating maybe one (per week),” said Carr, who with his wife, Kristy-Layne, runs cow-calf pairs and yearling heifers in a grass-fed operation.

Carr’s experiment with garlic began several years ago, after he attended a grazing school in Manitoba and someone at his table mentioned adding garlic to mineral to repel flies.

At the time, Carr wasn’t having any success with cattle oilers so he decided to give the seasoning a try.

“When we first did it… I was going to Superstore and buying every package of garlic salt or garlic powder they had. That was extremely tedious putting those (containers) in the mineral.”

To make his life simpler, Carr contacted an uncle and brother-in-law who work for Eastman Feeds in Manitoba. He convinced them to pre-mix garlic into mineral before he purchased it from the company.

After experimenting with different concentrations of garlic, to determine what the cattle would eat or not, Carr and Eastman Feeds came up with a formula for garlic-infused mineral.

Carr readily admits the practice is unusual, yet based on results on his farm, there is evidence that it works.

Representatives of Eastman Feeds took photos of Carr’s cattle and his neighbour’s animals, to compare the numbers of flies on the cattle’s faces.

“One thing we’re trying to control is the face flies, to prevent the spread of pinkeye,” Carr said. “The pictures were (worth) a thousand words. You could see a huge difference.”

After he adopted the practice, the concept of adding garlic to mineral has spread by word of mouth in southeastern Manitoba. Robert Krentz, a cattle backgrounder in the region, told pasture tour participants he’s also had success with garlic on his farm.

Carr isn’t sure how many producers in the area are using garlic to protect their cattle from flies. But there’s no harm in trying it because the cost is next to nothing, he added.

“It’s two cents a head to add the garlic. For me, it’s a lot simpler than messing around with fly tags, or oilers and all that stuff that I find is so hit or miss.”

As for the jokes about pre-seasoned beef, Carr hasn’t noticed any difference in the taste of his product.

Yet, his cattle are definitely more aromatic.

“I have run my hand down a cow’s back on a really hot day and you smell the garlic on there,” he said. “Just like with people, when you eat too much garlic it’s going to haunt you.”

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