Keep ticks and tick borne diseases out

Ticks spread diseases and cause damage during feeding. So it is important to keep them under control. But not all ticks are the same. Although all ticks go through the same life cycle stages (egg to larva to nymph to adult), they differ in that some ticks live on only one host, whereas others may need multiple hosts to complete their life cycle. The ticks that are of concern to livestock owners are cattle ticks, paralysis ticks and bush ticks. These ticks vary in their distribution across Australia, and some are easier to control than others. It is important to be able to identify the different types of ticks.

Cattle tick control

Cattle tick are a 1-host tick meaning they live their whole life cycle on the one host. This makes it possible to eradicate cattle ticks. Bush ticks and paralysis ticks are 3-host ticks and each life cycle stage can live on a different host, including wildlife, so with them it is about control not eradication.

Keeping cattle tick out of your herd starts with making sure that animals don’t stray off the property and pick up tick larvae somewhere else. Secure boundary fences are essential to stop cattle straying on or off the property. It is also important to make sure that any animals you bring onto your property are not carrying cattle tick. Cattle, buffalo and deer are the animals that cattle tick likes to live on but they can also be found on sheep and goats, horses and camelids in small numbers. Any new animals should be treated before introduction to the property.

Fortunately cattle ticks mostly occur in the higher rainfall areas of northern Australia (Qld, NT and WA), they are not normally found in more temperate areas in southern Australia.

Cattle tick is notifiable in all the non-endemic areas (south of the tick line) which means that when you suspect or detect cattle tick you must notify a government biosecurity officer so that they can be eradicated from the herd and to protect neighbouring herds as well.

In areas in northern Australia where cattle tick are endemic you should vaccinate the herd against tick fever which is spread by cattle tick and can kill cattle quickly. Some breeds of animal are more susceptible to ticks than others.

See also how to manage other hosts of cattle tick.

Bush and paralysis ticks

Controlling bush tick and paralysis ticks is harder because wildlife can easily move across boundary fences and drop ticks onto the ground during travel. In addition, each life stage of a 3-host tick only spends around 5 to 7 days on the host animal, so ticks can be easily be missed if cattle are only inspected occasionally.

Paralysis ticks produce a toxin during feeding that causes muscle paralysis that requires an antidote treatment from a veterinarian.

Bush ticks can carry a blood parasite called Theileria which can cause anaemia in cattle and has been seen in many areas of southern Australia particularly in introduced cattle.

Controlling these ticks needs a combination of regular treatments to kill any ticks on the animal and avoiding grazing animals in paddocks with ideal habitat for wildlife such as undergrowth or blady grass pasture at times when these ticks are active.

It is sound biosecurity practice to quarantine introduced animals to prevent pests and diseases entering the property in a separate area for 3 weeks before they are mixed with the other animals on the property. During this time they should be inspected for ticks on several occasions and treated with tick killing chemicals to reduce the likelihood that they will bring in chemically resistant ticks, or ticks that carry diseases such as tick fever, or Theileria.