Reducing starling numbers on dairy farms is likely to be most effective when several control methods are used and extra effort is made in the autumn, according to a study funded by DairyCo.

A review of the problem on 11 farms in Somerset and their views on the usefulness of various control methods was carried out last winter by independent dairy specialists Kingshay.

The Somerset Levels sees a particularly large number of starlings as up to nine million birds migrate there to roost every winter on the wetlands.

But other parts of the UK have similar problems, said south west DairyCo extension officer Chris Coxon. “It’s a particular problem on farm’s feeding maize, but with the benefits of maize to cow diets, stopping feeding maize is not a viable option.”

“It’s a particular problem on farm’s feeding maize, but with the benefits of maize to cow diets, stopping feeding maize is not a viable option.”
Chris Coxon, DairyCo

Kingshay’s Duncan Forbes said the study saw up to 50,000 birds on one farm in a day, though 8,000 to 20,000 was a more typical average.

On a day with high bird numbers, measurements suggested they could eat up to 12% of the ration put out for cows, costing £153 for 100 cows in lost production possible from that feed.

“The more control measures in place, combined with greater diligence in their use, led to lower starling numbers recorded,” said Mr Forbes.

Dairy Co’s starling control and management tips

  • Be particularly persistent in the early autumn before bird numbers get out of hand
  • While impractical on some farms, putting netting or sheeting on maize clamps is effective, as is netting buildings if it can be done completely
  • With starlings arriving soon after dawn and leaving before dusk, it may be worthwhile feeding twice a day or after dusk so birds only have access to half the daily ration
  • Scarecrows, particularly inflatables and those which move regularly, and trained birds of prey also showed some degree of effectiveness

The advantages and disadvantages of various control measures used can be found in the full report available at www.dairyco.org.uk

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