Paintball-style gun aims to eliminate flies on cattle

Farm Forum

While there are multiple ways to control flies on cattle, one way is a bit more fun.

A product called VetGun shoots orange capsules of insecticide directly onto the cattle.

Ryan Ollerich of MidWest Ag was using the gun in a pasture north of Aberdeen recently, demonstrating how it works on about two dozen head of cattle. It looks similar to a paintball gun and is fairly simple to use. A couple of twists to attach a carbon dioxide canister that propels the top-loaded capsules, and he was ready to go.

Unlike conventional methods of applying insecticide that require rounding the herd up to spray them, or relying on the cattle to brush up against an oiler or duster, using the gun just requires being with 15 to 20 feet of the herd. While there are guns to administer medicine in darts, there isn’t anything like the VetGun to manage flies.

The pickup slowly approached the cattle as they were grazing and swishing their tails in the tall grass. Ollerich then stepped out of the truck and aimed for the flat part of the shoulder, so the capsule would burst instead of bouncing off.

The first cow flinched as the capsule hit and burst, but otherwise was undisturbed.

The herd drifted after a few shots, so he worked his way closer, eventually driving around and making sure each cow got a dose. The shots are effective for about two weeks, Ollerich said.

The insecticide isn’t colored. It just leaves a wet, oily spot where it bursts. In a big herd, it can be hard to tell if each cow has been hit unless the shooter consistently picks a side or keeps track of the cattle.

For now, Ollerich said, VetGun capsules only keep horn flies and lice away. But there are other doses in the works, such as pink eye treatment, he said.

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