As spring marches along, the warmer weather is accompanied by an increase in the number of flies, biting insects, and other little nasties that bother the sheep, goats, donkeys and llamas. I feel bad for them when I see them swatting with their ears, stamping their feet, and swishing tails (although the sheep haven't really got tails to swish). This morning, I saw this type of activity was widespread, and when I walked down to check for lambs (no, there weren't any), I was also being pestered by flying insects. Time to get out the magic mixture. Aurora and Olwyn, our March BFL lambs, agree.
I thought I'd share the recipe for the magic mixture on the blog, because I think others might like to try it. I prefer using this recipe to using other commercial fly products because I think it's better for the animals and it doesn't have any unpleasant ingredients in it that I wouldn't be comfortable using on myself. That said, it works surprisingly well, and has no negative side effects on the sheep's fleece either. It's also a lot cheaper than most of the commercial fly products.
Homemade Animal Fly Repellent Spray
12 oz water
12 oz vinegar (I use regular white pickling vinegar)
4 oz "Skin So Soft" bath oil from Avon
1 oz Citronella oil
Mix all and shake well in a spray bottle - that's all!
The "Skin So Soft" bath oil from Avon comes in a 24 oz bottle for $16.99 but it's often on sale for $9.99. That means it makes 6 batches of the spray at $1.67 per batch. The citronella oil should NOT be the kind for refills of citronella lamps, etc. It should be the food grade essential oil. I buy it on Amazon for $4.49 for a one ounce bottle, and to be honest, I often use just half the bottle per batch, and it seems to work just as well. (If that link ceases to work, it's "Now Foods" brand, but there are lots of other brands of food grade citronella oil too.) I wouldn't use cider vinegar or other "sweet" smelling vinegars in case they ended up actually attracting flies. Horton says "I don't want any flies on me!"
It is easiest to use if you get the animals distracted by some yummy grain or other treat, and then just walk along behind them with a misting spray bottle, and they don't really notice. I do try to mist around the back of their necks and the mist seems to settle around their faces without distressing them. After misting everybody this morning, I noticed an immediate, significant reduction in flies. It does need to be re-applied after heavy rain or when you notice flies getting bad again, but I'm happy with the way it works on my flock, and I like the fact that the ingredients are so simple and I can pronounce all of them!