Cattle Oilers: Livestock Pest Control

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It’s that time of year again when everything is growing by leaps and bounds. Your cattle have made it through the winter and are feasting on the newly acquired grasses and the new calves are making good weight gains.

This unfortunately also means that disease-carrying pests such as horn and face flies, lice, and mosquitoes are becoming abundant and are ready to wreak havoc on your herd.  Enter the cattle oilers!

Cattle oiler with brushes   cattle oiler with mop

Cattle oilers for livestock pest control

During the spring and summer months, cattle farmers are looking for healthy weight gains in their animals, but unfortunately, many insects are looking to feed on farm and ranch animals which can disrupt the health of not just your cows, but all of your livestock. These pests can also carry and spread debilitating diseases as well.

Livestock Pests and Disease

Flies cause stress and LIMIT grazing time, weight gains

The horn fly is usually seen riding on the backs of cattle, where they can burrow down to the animal’s hide. Once there, they’ll bite repeatedly throughout the day drawing blood. It’s estimated that each fly can bite 20 or more times a day, and that’s just one fly! This constant biting creates stress in its host and creates an itching sensation.  This itchiness disrupts grazing time and interferes with weight gains. With milking cows, the stress and discomfort can lower output, and when nursing, can cut calf weight gains as well.

Another very common disease spreading fly is the common face fly. This fly feeds on external fluids, most commonly from the eye. The irritation to the eye is particularly annoying and the constant peskiness as the fly tries to access the fluid creates stress, limits grazing time, and can spread diseases such as pinkeye throughout the herd.  Pinkeye is very serious as it can cause not only discomfort but can lead to blindness.

Types of Cattle Oilers for insect control

Fortunately, there is help out there for our livestock.  Livestock oiler designs are for the most part pretty straightforward, effective, and simple to use.  They provide effective pest control and best of all, some are self-applicating!

Cattle Ear Tags

The ear tags are popular and can be effective but have some disadvantages that self-applicating oilers do not.

  1. Tags require that you run your cattle through the chute and put them through a stressful environment to physically attach the tag. This also requires extra man-hours and increases the potential for injury.
  2. Ear tags also lose their effectiveness and don’t offer full-strength protection year-round as their potency diminishes over time. This requires that they be removed and replaced with another ear tag, costing time, and money and stressing the animals once again.

A ‘one-time’ topical treatment also wears off over time, degrades in the rain, and needs to be re-applied to maintain its performance and effectiveness.

Insecticide Self-Application

To provide constant and effective livestock pest control, a full-strength application needs to be maintained throughout the season. One of the great advantages of Cattle Oilers is that the pesticide is consistently self-administered. They rely on the animal’s instinct to rub and scratch areas that bother them which applies insecticide right where it’s needed.  This is especially true with the brush oiler designs as they can be used to remove winter hair, and nasty pests and be an effective applicator.

Not only are animals able to apply fly protection by themselves, but the constant use of the brushes keeps maximum repellent effectiveness consistent throughout the fly season.  There’s no need to reapply anything to the animals as the season goes on as they are keeping themselves protected!

Brush oilers

One of the most popular oiler designs is a tank that holds insecticide coupled with strong brushes for application. Typically a top brush is mounted on a steel spring while a side brush is mounted through a bracket to a wall or post to provide the support needed.

cattle oiler with brushes and a steel tank

As livestock rub up against the brushes the liquid is applied and rubbed into their coats. This is an extremely effective method of application as it gets down into the hair of the animal for maximum effectiveness.

The brushes are so desired by cattle that cattle groomers are offered for removing winter and excess hair. They are the same as the oilers, but they don’t dispense insecticide and don’t use or need a tank.

cattle groomer for removing hair


Another oiler design uses a tank wrapped in felt with a mop used as an applicator. Typically hung in a mineral feeder or traffic alleyway, these gravity-fed systems are excellent for keeping face flies at bay.

cattle oiler with string mop and steel tank

A rounded tank with small holes in the sides will ‘leak’ insecticide when tipped by the animals as they go by in an alley or feeder out of a feeder.  The small holes release liquid to the felt that is wrapped around the tank and held in place with wire mesh before it is then released to the mop itself. This prevents constantly leaking and provides the liquid only when in use.

Below is a picture of a cattle oiler with a mop being used in an upright mineral feeder.  As the cows go in for the mineral, the animal is gently blanketed with the oiler mop and the insecticide is applied automatically. A simple yet effective design for sure.

upright mineral feeder with cattle oiler installed

These are not the only types of oilers being used in the industry but they are very popular and used across the country for effective pest management. Always consult your veterinarian for the appropriate insecticide or pest repellent to use before applying it to your herd.

Please see for a large selection of livestock pest controls and feel free to call 720.238.2190 anytime!