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  • In extensive areas where mustering is difficult often the only practical methods of controlling buffalo flies are those that provide long periods of protection, such as insecticidal ear tags, backrubbers or fly traps.
  • Self-treatment methods such as backrubbers or insecticidal ear tags are best used during the peak buffalo fly season. Leaving them in place when fly challenge is below economic threshold levels can increase selection for resistance.
  • Best buffalo fly control is achieved if backrubbers are positioned in frequently used cattle walkways so that the animals are forced to pass under the rubber on their way to water, feed or a mineral supplement. Alternatively, backrubbers can be positioned in shady areas or cattle camps where cattle frequently rest.
  • It is important to observe the cattle to confirm that they are using the rubber. If this is not the case, try moving it to another position.


  • Backrubbers give extended protection against buffalo flies, that can also increase selection for resistance in buffalo fly populations.
  • Both compounds registered for use in backrubbers are organophosphates (OPs). Resistance to organophosphates is reported in buffalo flies in some parts of Australia.
  • To reduce selection for resistance, delay putting backrubbers out until fly numbers reach economic threshold levels and remove them when fly numbers drop at the end of the season.
  • Where other treatments for buffalo flies are required (for example at the beginning or end of the season or where additional treatments are required because of high fly numbers) use a different application method and a product from a different chemical group.
  • If treatments for other ectoparasites (e.g. ticks, lice or other types of flies) are required, use a product that does not contain OP chemicals.
  • If possible, use other methods of treatment (ear tags, pour-ons or sprays) with a non-OP insecticide in successive seasons, particularly if there are indications that the effectiveness of backrubbers is decreasing.

What is resistance?


  • Low cost.
  • Self treatment.


  • No control over dose per animal.
  • Have a moderate export slaughter interval (ESI).
  • Some restrictions on use on lactating dairy cattle.


  • Low risk of inadvertent chemical exposure If used according to label directions.

Everyone working in the rural industry has a ‘duty of care’; a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for everyone on the property.

Other information

Figure 1. Backrubber design. Image courtesy of Australian Livestock Backrubbers

How it works

Backrubbers (Figure 1) or rubbing poles consist of a chain or chains wrapped in burlap (sacking material) which is soaked with oil and insecticide and secured. An insecticide and oil mix is applied to the cattle as they walk past and brush against the rub.

Backrubbers can be either self-oiling with a reservoir that replenishes oil and insecticide in the rubber, or less commonly, where the mix must be replenished manually when it is exhausted.

Self-oiling backrubbers

With self-oiling backrubbers, for initial charging place the rubber in a tub, turn on the reservoir tap and allow the rubber to become fully saturated. Then hang the rubber in place, position the reservoir and use the tap to adjust the flow. The tap can be left turned off and then used to re- charge the backrubber when needed. Alternatively, the tap can be adjusted to give continual replenishment. If the continual feed method is used, check periodically to see that the rubber remains wet, without the oil and pesticide mix dripping onto the ground.

Manually charged backrubbers

Backrubbers that are not self-oiling must be charged by soaking in a tub or drum until they become completely saturated with the oil and pesticide mixture. They must then be recharged manually as required.

Charging backrubbers

The only chemicals registered for use in backrubbers are diazinon and chorfenvinphos, both in the organophosphate (OP) group of chemicals (see the Flyboss cattle products search guide). Check the product label for the correct concentration of pesticide to mix with the carrier oil. Note that resistance to organophosphates, which occurs in some areas, may compromise the effectiveness of backrubbers.

Use only clean mineral oil, oil designed specifically for backrubber use or new non-recycled motor oil. Do not use vegetable oil or old, or recycled motor oil. Old or recycled oil can contain contaminants that may leave unacceptable residues and can include carcinogens. Vegetable oil is combustible, and cattle often lick the oil and ingest the chemical, again potentially leading to residues.

Location and use

Backrubbers should be secured from a frame, posts or other suitable structures or trees if available in a good position. The backrubber cable should be hung loosely from about 1.8 metres at the highest point, to about 1 metre at the lowest so that cattle have to push past it to get under (Figure 2).

Mobile frame backrubbers (Figure 3) provide another option and can be relocated from paddock to paddock and can be used where suitable fixed mounting points are not available.

At the end of the season remove the backrubber and store under cover. Doing this reduces unnecessary product use, increases the life of the backrubber, minimises the chance of residues and reduces selection of flies for chemical resistance.

More information on the installation and use of backrubbers is available from Australian Livestock Backrubbers.

Figure 2. Backrubber in use. Image courtesy of Australian Livestock Backrubbers
Figure 3. Mobile backrubber. Image courtesy of Australian Livestock Backrubbers

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