Livestock farmers could soon be able to deter starlings on their farm by adding a garlic-based feed extract to rations.
Research by Bridgwater College Farm found an additive to total mixed rations, when fed at the recommended 12.5g, discouraged starlings from entering farm buildings to feed.
It is estimated the Anode Feeds product, Avianex could save farmers significant amounts of money, with AHDB Dairy estimating the daily cost of starling infestations reaching over £100 for every 100 cows.
Commenting on the trial, Ian Tremain, head of agricultural innovation at Bridgwater College, says a 2p a day return can offer a tenfold investment to farmers in reduced losses.
The polysulphides in the product cause stomach irritation to the birds, and after a week to 10 days they associate the smell of the product with the irritation and avoid it.
“After this the starlings then went elsewhere to feed and did not come back to the shed,” says Mr Tremain.
How to use it
The granular extract should be added to a TMR daily and mixed in thoroughly, advises Mr Tremain. In severe cases of starling infestation or in non-lactating cattle, the dosage can be increased to 25g a cow a day and has no impact on the cows’ feed intake, and at the recommended dosage will not cause milk taint.
However, he warns that if the dosage exceeds 70g a day, it will cause milk taint. “You need to be in control of the dosage and mix it accurately into the TMR using a mixer wagon.”
Usually arriving between October and November, starlings will remain in the UK for five months, but the associated health issues to cattle can cause year-round costs for farmers.
Through faecal contamination, starlings can pass on E coli, salmonella, campylobacter and paratuberculosis among other diseases, says Mr Tremain. “Starlings cause a double whammy to farmers; losing feed value and introducing pathogens.”
Deterring the starlings from feeding on farm only results in them looking for more natural sources on grass and arable land where they can be of benefit to the soils, he adds. “There is no lasting impact to the birds from the extract, they just do not like it.”
A spray is also currently being developed for application to exposed maize clamps to stop the starlings feeding from them.