Understanding Cattle’s worst enemy: Ticks

20 Mar 2020

It is often said dynamite comes in small packages, or an ant can kill an elephant.

These age-old sayings ring true when it comes to cattle diseases. The tick, often a regular visitor to the cattle kraal, is one of the most potent threats to animal health and has been known to cause a variety of diseases to livestock.

Ticks cause severe damage to cattle, especially around the udder and ears. The wound will often get infected with bacteria and often attracts flies, which make it fetid. Some ticks cause greater damage than others, such as the ones that infect cattle with heart water, red water and gall sickness.

European breeds tend to be at greater risk than indigenous animals for red water and gall sickness. Prevention for all these tick-borne diseases is by tick control. You could either use a pour-on, or a plunge dip or spray dip if you have the facilities for this.

Pour-ons can be easier to use and you do not need additional facilities, but these are more expensive. You may need to treat for ticks as often as once a week in the wet season and then every second week in the dry season.

You may be able to treat less often if you vaccinate the cattle against tick-borne diseases. Vaccination is best done in calves under six months of age and one dose is sufficient. The heartwater vaccine is given through the vein and it must be done by a veterinarian. Because these are live vaccines, signs of disease can occur and treatment may be needed following vaccination, especially for the heartwater vaccine.

Tick-related diseases are:

Redwater - Signs of redwater are fever, lack of appetite, red urine, pale to yellow gums and eyes, and sometimes nervous signs such as difficulty in walking. This disease can lead to death if the animals are not treated in time. Treatment involves keeping the cattle calm. They should not be driven over long distances and should be injected with Berenil or Imizol. Contact your veterinarian for advice on these vaccines and correct dosages.

Gall sickness - Apart from being passed to cattle by ticks, gall sickness can also be spread among cattle by blood, for example by biting insects, de-horning and injecting the animals with the same needle. Signs of gall sickness are depression, lack of appetite, fever, pale to yellow gums and eyes, as well as constipation.

The animal can be sick for a longer period than in the case of redwater or heartwater. Treatment involves keeping the cattle calm.

They should not be driven over long distances and should be injected with tetracycline or Imizol. The dose of tetracycline will depend on the type you are using. It is, therefore, important to read the instructions on the bottle. Once again, contact your nearest veterinarian for advice.

Heartwater - Signs of heartwater are fever, depression, high-stepping, convulsions and death. Treatment is with tetracycline.

Read the instructions on the bottle properly for the dose.

Source: Agriculture Today