Ticks: A threat to livestock

Rachel Rose

| Cattle & Dairy | General | Sheep & Goats

| May 7, 2024

Ticks: A threat to livestock

Ticks may be small, but they can pose a big threat for both livestock and humans. With their activity peaking from April to July, and even lingering into the autumn, it’s essential for farmers to stay ‘tick aware’ as the weather warms up.

Understanding Ticks

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that can latch onto any animal, including humans. In the UK, their numbers and distribution are on the rise, likely due to factors such as warmer weather, changes in environmental habitats, and a decline in sheep dipping.

There are over 20 species of ticks in the UK, but the most common is the sheep tick (ixodes ricinus), which can transmit diseases like louping ill, tickborne fever, and tick pyaemia to livestock. In addition, all ticks have the potential to transmit Lyme disease to humans, dogs, and horses.

Hill flocks are particularly vulnerable to ticks due to the dense vegetation and warm, humid conditions found in upland areas. However, ticks can also be found in lower lying areas and rough grazing fields.

Tick Lifecycle

The sheep tick has a complex lifecycle, consisting of larvae, nymphs, and adults. Larvae and nymphs prefer smaller hosts, while adults feed on larger animals such as sheep. This species feeds on a wide range of mammals, birds, and reptiles, and is increasingly concerning due to its interactions with humans.

Diseases Spread by Ticks:

Ticks can transmit several diseases, each with its own set of symptoms and risks for livestock:

  • Louping Ill: A viral disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep, causing fever, trembling, paralysis, and potentially death.
  • Tickborne Fever: Caused by bacterium (anaplasma phagocytophilum), it suppresses the immune system, leading to fever, anorexia, and susceptibility to other diseases.
  • Tick Pyaemia: Affecting young lambs, it causes abscesses in tendons, joints, muscles, and the brain, leading to lameness, paralysis, and even death.
Control Measures

Apart from vaccination for louping ill, the main control method for tick-borne diseases is using acaricide treatments on at-risk sheep. Each farm needs a specific plan tailored to its situation, including the choice and timing of control products. It’s crucial to seek advice from a vet or animal health advisor and to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

When introducing new sheep to a farm with tick-infested areas, it’s essential to take precautions. Even adult sheep can be at risk, so they should be introduced well before the breeding season and protected with acaricide products (like CLiK or Crovect).

How Herdwatch can simplify your medicine recording:

With Herdwatch, farmers can effortlessly record all aspects of their livestock medication, from administering treatments to keeping track of withdrawal periods. The app allows members to easily input information such as the type of medicine used, the dosage, and the animal it was administered to, streamlining the recording process.

In addition, Herdwatch automatically calculates withdrawal periods based on the medication administered, ensuring that farmers adhere to regulatory standards. This not only saves time but also ensures compliance with legal requirements.

Herdwatch also provides detailed reports and reminders, making it easier for farmers to manage their livestock health effectively.

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