A cow’s days of fly-shooting and hoof-stomping may be coming to an end. According to researchers, all it takes to repel pests is a fresh coat of paint.
According to a new study published in PLOS One, black cows painted to look like zebras are nearly 50% less likely to suffer from pesky horse fly bites.
Six cows were given black-and-white stripes, black stripes, and no stripes by a team of Japanese researchers. They photographed the cow’s painted right side, counting the number of bites as they occurred and observing the cows’ reactions.
Researchers discovered that while unpainted cows and cows with black stripes received up to 110 bites in 30 minutes, black-and-white cows received less than 60.
Zebra stripes serve a purpose other than aesthetics; they aid in the defense against bloodsuckers. Previous research has shown that flies are less likely to land on black-and-white surfaces because the polarization of light impairs their perception, preventing them from decelerate properly, according to the researchers.
Fly bites cost the cattle industry billions
When helpless cows are the victims of fly bites, it stings the humans who own them, too. Biting flies interfere with cows’ grazing, feeding and bedding, and they’re estimated to cost the cattle industry in production loss.
Since they can’t swat flies away, cows exert significant energy to avoid them, researchers said. They’ll bunch, or group close together, to prevent fly attacks, which can increase their risk of heat stress and injury.
It’s an environmentally friendly, if tedious, solution
The water-based paint faded quickly, so while it’s a less invasive solution than a pesticide-laced ear tag, it’s only temporary. For best results, ranchers would need to spray thousands of cows multiple times per week.
However, fewer bites would improve cow health, which would benefit the economy. Furthermore, researchers claim that substituting paint for pesticides would benefit both the environment and human health. The weekly art project appears to be worthwhile.