Tips for Keeping Pests Away from Crops and Livestock

By Emily Folk

You can't reason with pests. They'll eat your crops and harm your livestock without a second thought — if they ever gave it a first. What you can do is protect your property against them, and you have a wide selection of options which ensure the security of your plants and animals.

We'll detail five of those options below, walking you through ways to keep pests from disrupting your operation.

1. Floating Row Covers

You need to protect your plants from pests, but popular pesticides aren't always the best solution. The ingredients in these products have attracted public attention in the past, and many people aren't entirely comfortable consuming produce sprayed with chemicals. Fortunately, you have a friendly alternative.

Just after transplant or direct seeding, you should set floating row covers overtop your crops to prevent pests from harming your hard work. During this vulnerable stage in their lifecycle, your plants will grow without the threat of intruders, and when they're strong enough to survive on their own, you can simply lift the covers.

2. Crop Rotation

It's unrealistic to monitor your crops day and night, around the clock, keeping a close watch for potential problems. You have other responsibilities you have to tend to, and you need a hands-off approach to pest control. In rotating your crops every year, you'll enjoy a form of passive protection.

The logic behind this technique is relatively simple. In growing a crop which isn't a host plant to the pests in that particular field, you'll break their cycle and reduce harmful populations over time. It's a proactive approach which doesn't require pesticides or row covers to work — just foresight and planning.

3. Beneficial Insects

As you're well aware, not all insects are bad. Pollinators like honeybees are essential to sustaining agriculture, and that's only one example. There are many more which support the hard fact that certain bugs are beneficial, with the potential to help your operation instead of hurting it.

Through introducing beneficial insect populations onto your farm, you'll combat the problem of harmful pests. You won't see a change right away, but over time, you'll notice a significant reduction in pest populations. It's such a successful method that in Canadian apple orchards, five species of predaceous true bugs were accountable for between 44 to 68 percent of the mortality of moth eggs.

4. Dust Bags

Your cattle are unable to swipe away the flies that land on their faces and bodies, but with the implementation of dust bags, you can manage it for them. They're often most effective in forced-use situations, where an animal has to lift the bag with its head on their way to drink or eat.

As long as you can keep your dust bags clear from the rain and charged with insecticide, they'll prove an excellent deterrent against pasture flies. To ensure it works as it's meant to, let the bottom of the bag hang around 18 inches from the ground. This way, your cattle will have no choice but to pass beneath.

5. Good Sanitation

One of your first lines of defense, proper sanitation will limit the availability of areas for pests to breed and live. You should walk the perimeter of your property and check for any standing pools of water or piles of dead vegetation. These are prime locations where pests can hide, increasing their numbers.

Sanitation is particularly relevant in fighting mosquitos. If you have a spare tire on your farm you've forgotten about, it can collect rainwater and foster the growth of mosquito populations. These pests, and others like them, could carry diseases like the West Nile Virus and Zika Virus that could spread to livestock.

Don't Let Pests Bug You

You have no shortage of methods to ensure the safety of your crops and livestock. You could take a simple approach, inspecting your farm for any sanitation issues, or you could invest in products like floating row covers or dust bags.

While you can't reason with pests, they'll certainly get the message.

 About the author: Emily Folk is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.