Livestock: And you thought ticks were bad on people ...

May. 04, 2013 @ 06:18 PM


If anyone has been walking around in the woods lately, they may have found some of those little creepy-crawly things we call ticks. They are out and active.

If they are bothering us, think about how they are also bothering our livestock. Ticks get carried from place to place on animal bodies since they feed on warm-blooded animals by biting and taking a blood meal. Once full, they drop off and get started on the next phase of their life.

Ticks go through three stages called instars as they develop, and once fully developed, females will lay eggs and thousands of seed ticks are ready to start the cycle over again. They are not easy to control since they are tough and can withstand extreme heat and cold. They are not active during cold weather, but many do survive as we can tell from that walk through an infested area.

Think about how our livestock handles these critters. They are walking around in pastures and wooded areas picking up ticks all the time. Ticks cause the same irritations on them as they do on any animal.

I recently fielded a question about treating pastures to kill ticks. There are several problems with that, with the main one being there is not an insecticide registered for that use that I have found. If there were, the cost would be prohibitive, and it would only be a temporary solution since deer and other animals would bring in a fresh crop of the insects.

On cattle, we have ear tags that release their insecticide slowly that are used to control flies. These can help to control some ticks, but they are not all that effective. Again, the ear tags are mainly for fly control.

There are insecticides formulated as dusts, pour-on products and sprays that work pretty well. I like to recommend back rubs treated with insecticide. Livestock will go to them and rub on their own once they feel the benefit of getting rid of their load of pests. However, these work best when placed where cattle or other livestock has to walk under them to get from one place to another.

Using two or more methods together, and rotating insecticides will reduce the chance of ticks building up immunity.

We rarely put ear tags in horses, so insecticide ear tags are not a good choice for them. We can, however use the dusts and some sprays. People work more closely with horses, so they are easier to monitor. Keeping the stalls cleaned out and bedded with fresh material will physically remove any ticks that may be in the bedding material. Stalls can also be treated to keep ticks from emerging from cracks and crevices to bite. Keeping horses clean and brushed will help, too.

If you have questions about controlling ticks or other external parasites, give me a call at (919) 603-1350 or send an email to, and I’ll be happy to help find a solution.