Parasites & Pests

Buffalo Fly

Dr. Bill Tranter discusses the effect buffalo fly have on cattle, the losses they cause, methods for treatment and recommendations for cattle producers. 

What is Buffalo fly?

Cattle producers throughout northern Australia regard buffalo fly (Haematobia irritans exigua) as a serious pest.

The buffalo fly already causes significant problems in the Australian beef cattle industry. In a future where climate change may well cause an increased distribution of this pest, it will be more important than ever that cattle producers employ effective management strategies. An integrated approach is recommended for the control of this pest.

The buffalo fly is a small external, blood-sucking parasite, up to 4 mm in length. Like the cattle tick, the buffalo fly was accidentally introduced into northern Australia from Asia in the 19th century. Since then, this pest has spread across much of the tropical north and as far south as central New South Wales. The prevalence of buffalo fly has fluctuated further south over recent years, with one of the most likely reasons for this being climate change. It is considered to be the most significant health issue affecting cattle in Queensland, with a cost to the industry, according to the MLA in 2005, estimated at $20–$30 million annually.

Buffalo fly irritate cattle, interrupting feeding and causing sores, especially when infestations are high. Trials in the wet tropics have shown that buffalo fly can reduce beef cattle production by up to 16%. A small parasitic worm (Stephanofilaria spp.) is associated with buffalo fly bites and causes skin lesions. Sores from buffalo fly infestations result in permanent hide damage, therefore decreasing the value of the hide. These lesions may also restrict access of stock to the live export trade.


* MLA – Tips and Tools – ‘Controlling buffalo fly on intensive beef and dairy properties’.

* MLA – ‘Cattle and land management best practices in the Katherine region’, 2009. 

* NSW DPI – PrimeFacts – ‘Buffalo flies and their control’, 2007. 

* Queensland DPI – ‘Buffalo fly control’, Gibson GJ, 2005. 

* Nigel Grant Teacher Resources (NGTR) – ‘Holding back the tide: the control of cattle tick and buffalo fly in Australia’, Integrated Pest Management – Sustainable Agriculture in practice.

* Diagram courtesy of -

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