Birds have been a nuisance on farms since the dawn of agriculture. While pest bird culprits, their agricultural targets, and deterrence strategies have changed over the millennia, the threats birds pose to farms remain largely unchanged.
Dairy farms are particularly – and consistently – hard hit by birds, resulting in substantial losses. Luckily, a number of control solutions can be employed to effectively deter birds from dairies.
Dairy is big business in the U.S. – the industry contributes billions of dollars to the economy annually. According to the USDA, the country’s 9.4 million dairy cows produced 226 billion pounds of milk in 2022. That milk was produced on the country’s nearly 28,000 licensed dairy farms, thousands of which are in the Midwest.
Birds and cows eat the same stuff, and many species of hungry, mooching birds view cow feed as a free, all-you-can-eat banquet. In addition to stealing cows’ food, birds contaminate feed with droppings that contain potentially deadly diseases, including avian flu, salmonella, campylobacter, and Johne’s disease. Soiled food is unsafe for cows to eat, and must be discarded.
One study found dairy farms lose nearly 4.5% of their cow feed to birds, half to eating and half to spoilage. The total financial impact of feed loss comes to around $55 per cow per year. That may not seem like much, but with 9.4 million cows in the industry, the losses add up to over half a billion dollars annually.
The European Starling is a voracious, invasive species in the U.S. and a scourge to farms. Native to Europe, starlings are the primary avian offenders responsible for dairy industry losses across the country: according to the study cited above, 85% of respondents said starlings are the bird most commonly seen eating feed.
Starlings evolved alongside humans and other animals and aren’t easily threatened by them. Flocks of starlings – which sometimes number in the tens of thousands– often perch above cattle and their food, and leave a mess of white rain below.
A number of solutions exist to keep starlings and other birds away from cows on dairy farms. Installing metal mesh netting over holes and ventilation areas can exclude birds from entering barns. Proper maintenance of feed storage facilities and cattle housing also prevents birds from exploiting holes or damaging deteriorating structures.
Autonomic lasers are one of the most effective and long-lasting control solutions available to farmers. Laser systems act as 24/7 herd guardians that relentlessly and randomly harass birds in a safe and humane way. Birds are quickly conditioned to avoid the sweep of a laser’s beam, so they learn to avoid perching above or near cows and their feed.
Defend Your Dairy Farm with Migratory Bird Management
If your dairy farm struggles to control starlings or other nuisance birds, Migratory Bird Management can help. With over 25 years of experience controlling birds on farms (and more), with a range of humane, biology-based techniques, the Migratory Bird Management team can help protect your cows – and their feed – from birds.
Contact us to schedule a site evaluation, or to learn how lasers and other solutions can keep your farm bird-free.