Starlings can cost a dairy farmer about £1 per day per cow, in feed losses and reduced milk yield, according to advisors at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board in the UK.
Their research findings indicate that switching from morning to evening feeding lowers the amount of feed losses by 14-22%.
And simple changes in daily routines can reduce the impact of the bird infestations.
Netting, or bird-scaring, have proved successful, when implemented early in the season.
Starlings are attracted by water sources, exposed feed, and accessible perching sites such as trees. Total mixed rations with grain, in particular maize, draw the birds.
Feeding in the afternoon, after the birds have left the farm to roost, means the cows have up to 16 hours access to uncontaminated feed before the birds return the next morning.
it was found that when feeding moves to the late afternoon, the cows will rapidly adapt, and benefit from a noticeable increase in lying and cudding time during the day. It is recommended to start this feeding regime early in the autumn before starlings arrive, in order to reduce the attractiveness of the farm to starlings.
Starlings have been known to return to the same farm year after year. They consume around half their body weight in food each day. They can also spread bacterial infections, and they change the overall nutrient balance of the intended diet, by “selective” feeding, sorting through rations, selecting the parts they want to eat.
Legally, only 50 starlings a year can be culled on UK farms.
Some UK farmers say they have given up growing and feeding maize, mainly because of starlings, but also because of badgers eating the growing crop, and cost.