University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
July 2, 2014
Source: Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties
Dung Beetles: Your Other Pasture Manager
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (07/02/14) — Cow-calf producers know the importance of managing their pastures, but what about the other critters managing your pastures? I’m talking, of course, about dung beetles. Dung beetles are beetles that feed partly or exclusively on dungs or feces. They possess exceptional dung disposal capacity and one dung beetle can bury dung that is 250 times heavier than itself in one night. Many dung beetles, known as rollers, roll dung into round balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Other dung beetles, known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it. The beetles then lay their eggs in the dung, where the larvae will hatch, grow, and continue the cycle.
Dung beetle activities greatly benefit the land on which they are acting. Buried with the manure are flies and parasites, forever enemies of cattle, horses and other livestock. Dr. Jody Wade, professional service veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. says, “Dung beetles help reduce pest populations that affect cattle herds. One manure pat may contain close to 80 adult horn flies. But healthy dung beetle populations have been shown to reduce horn flies by as much as 95 percent. They can reduce nematode infections by up to 90 percent and nematode populations 75-93 percent.”
Dung beetles offer additional benefits to pastures. These include:
Unfortunately, dung beetle populations have been heavily reduced by the use of some dewormers that control internal parasites. By using avermectin parasite control products, which kill dung beetles, producers may have lost many benefits the beetles bring to pastures. However, cattle can receive excellent parasite control from products that contain moxidectin, which has little or no effect on dung beetles. Talk to your vet or local sales rep about dewormers with moxidectin, and leave the dirty work to the dung beetles.
Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University