Beef cattle producers must be vigilant to mitigate herd health risksBeef cattle producers must be vigilant to mitigate herd health risks
When conducting annual health checks on cattle, producers should be on lookout for other health risks.
April 20, 2017
Beef cattle producers should be observant when conducting annual health vaccination protocols on their cattle, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
Although not a statewide threat, the fever tick has resulted in some herds in far south Texas to be subject to a quarantine zone. This topic, as well as proper vaccination protocol and techniques, was discussed at the recent Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Assn. convention in San Antonio, Texas.
“Surveillance is key,” AgriLife Extension livestock specialist Dr. Joe Paschal said. “We want to enlist veterinarians and ranchers to be more observant of ticks on cattle. These fever ticks tend to prefer soft tissue along the dewlap, brisket, forearm and back in the flank area.
“It’s a one-host tick, and we can use the cow as a control method," he added. "Right now, we can dip or spray the cow. If producers or veterinarians see ticks on cattle that are unusual, even if they are not, they are encouraged to collect those ticks, put them in a little bottle of isopropyl alcohol and send it to Texas Animal Health Commission veterinarians.”
Paschal said if they are identified as fever ticks, “we need to know where they are coming from and get a handle on them.”
“More than 99% of the time, they are going to be common ticks, and we are going to know what they are,” he said. “There are some things to look for, and they are very easy to take off the animal. They are typically not very deep and not very colorful. When you pull a tick off and put it in your hand, it starts crawling off pretty fast. (Fever) ticks do not. They are very slow.”
The technical name for Texas cattle fever is bovine babesiosis, which relates to the organisms that infect the red blood cells of cattle. It is their destruction of the red blood cells that results in anemia, fever and death.
To learn more, AgriLife Extension experts recommend using the free smartphone application Tick App, available at http://tickapp.tamu.edu, and checking the Texas Animal Health Commission’s website at www.tahc.texas.gov/regs/code.html for information on tick treatment options, tick quarantine and associated regulations, as well as the latest updates on current quarantines.
Meanwhile, screwworms are still something producers should watch for, because there was a case in Florida that has now been eradicated by state animal health officials. Dr. Tom Hairgrove, AgriLife Extension program coordinator for food and livestock systems, said watchfulness is key.
“We still need to be very observant,” Hairgrove said of screwworms. “It’s a maggot and will feed on live flesh in animals. If you see maggots in a live animal, take some of those maggots, put them in isopropyl alcohol and send them to (Texas Animal Health Commission veterinarians). We want to get ahead of it. With the Florida outbreak, it might have been around awhile on some small animals and was missed. It could have been going on a lot longer than most people thought.”
Hairgrove said this helps with surveillance and also maintains "a record of where the samples are coming from.”
Hairgrove said he also advises beef cattle producers to develop a relationship with a local veterinarian. “Sit down with your local practitioner,” he said. “Develop a good herd health program. A vaccination is just like insurance. We are just trying to mitigate against risk.”
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