By Steven L. Miller,
Office of Communications and Technology
A direct response by taking a swat at biting insects that pummeled Wyoming sheep with the bluetongue disease and the sheep ked is one of many reasons Y-TEX Corp. of Cody is the recipient of the Research Partner of the Year award.
The company, established in 1967, manufactures identification ear tags, insecticide ear tags, and other animal health products such as dusts and pour-ons that target livestock insects. The company created its first impregnated ear tag for control of the Gulf Coast ear tick on cattle in southern states, and it now manufactures insecticide cattle ear tags for various pests. These tags are marketed in the U.S. and exported from Cody to 12 countries.
"Since then, Y-TEX has become a national leader in developing insecticide ear tags and other specialty insecticide formulations for the livestock industry," says Jack Lloyd, professor emeritus in the College of Agriculture's Department of Renewable Resources. "They have been particularly instrumental in developing products to prevent and control insecticide resistance."
Y-TEX began by making identification ear tags, says Joe Kellerby, vice president-specialty products for the company. "We became involved in animal health more than 30 years ago experimenting with slow-release ear tags for controlling ectoparasites (pests that infest outside the body) of cattle."
Company officials have worked with many land-grant universities, including Montana State University, Oklahoma State University, and UW. "Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations dictate you can't sell insecticide products without the EPA's approval, and that requires lots of efficacy and safety data to support the product and back up the label claims," notes Kellerby.
Collaborations with universities help provide that. Y-TEX was led to Jack Lloyd when trying to control cattle lice with insecticide ear tags and with insecticide pour-ons. "That is what specifically led us to Jack Lloyd," says Mike Fletcher, director of parasiticide development. "Dr. Lloyd is a world-renowned expert on cattle lice."
Y-TEX has provided funds to support research and graduate training in the college and co-hosted the annual Livestock Insect Workers' Conference in Cody, says Lloyd, and it has contributed generously to the Lloyd Veterinary Entomology Gift Fund, including the Lloyd/Kumar fellowship in entomology.
Y-TEX also donates ID tags and applicators to 4-H, FFA, the Department of Animal Science at UW, and the Steer-A-Year program, and it is a member of the Cowboy Joe Club.
There are many drug companies and insecticide formulators that support the development of products for livestock pest management, but Y-TEX is different, says Lloyd. "Y-TEX is special because it has supported expansion of labels and development of unique formulations needed by the smaller producers and limited markets in places like Wyoming. These are activities that the bigger pharmaceutical companies simply wouldn't touch. Of particular value is its support in navigating these products through the regulatory process of the EPA."
A 2007 bluetongue outbreak in Wyoming's Big Horn Basin killed more than 300 sheep and sickened hundreds more. The response to the outbreak was fairly quick. "Development of new products can take more than three years," says Kellerby. Because it already had the PYthon Insecticide Cattle Ear Tag, an effective EPA-registered product for use on cattle, approval for sheep use as a Special Local Need (SLN) registration came in about three months. Letters of support from university experts also hastened the process.
A biting gnat transmits bluetongue, a viral disease, and the sheep ked is a blood-feeding parasite that causes serious pelt defects. "As a result of a cooperative effort involving UW, Y-TEX, and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming now has a state SLN label for sheep use of the PYthon ear tag, which repels the biting gnat that transmits bluetongue. It has also been shown to control the sheep ked. Y-TEX, again in cooperation with UW, is preparing to submit a product application to the EPA based on cooperative work in Wyoming for a liquid sheep insecticide that is effective against the gnat," notes Lloyd.
With the approval of European Union authorities, Y-TEX is now testing the PYthon tag on sheep and cattle in The Netherlands to combat a bluetongue outbreak.
In the development of effective products, companies like Y-TEX plan for and monitor insect resistance against their own products and those that competitors may bring to the market. "The process may take six or more years," says Kellerby. "We try to anticipate resistance issues."
Case in point is a new ear tag containing abamectin to control the horn fly, the XP 820 Insecticide Cattle Ear Tag, against which horn fly resistance has not been demonstrated. With that new tag, the company has developed an annual tag rotation program using three unrelated chemistries to counteract horn fly resistance.
"I first started working with that chemical in 1998," Kellerby notes. "It's just on the market this year, having been approved in January. That is an extreme example of the time requirement. In that case, it took probably seven to eight years to develop the product and about two years to get it through the EPA."
On the safety side, Fletcher notes the insecticide impregnated in the company's products bleed out very slowly from the tag until the tag essentially stops releasing after several months. "Once the tag is at the end of its life, it has released most of the insecticide it can," he says.