Everyone working in the rural industry has a ‘duty of care’; a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for everyone on the property.
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.
Figure 1. Backrubber design. Image courtesy of Australian Livestock 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.
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.
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.
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