In many instances tick eradication is not practical and therefore the next option is to manage tick populations to reduce business losses. Monitoring ticks is also important to determine if existing control methods are effective. Left unchecked, ticks cause major production and financial losses. Their direct effects include tick worry which can significantly reduce cattle live-weight gain and milk production, they can cause hide damage, and in numbers they can cause anaemia (blood loss). Ticks can also carry diseases such as tick fever (cattle tick) and theileriosis (bush tick) and the toxins of paralysis ticks can be deadly. See the tick identification section to see how to recognise cattle, bush and paralysis ticks.
When monitoring keep in mind that:
- In regions where ticks occur, they are present on farm all year.
- Cattle tick, paralysis tick and bush tick numbers all rise in spring, or with summer rains. Monitoring periods should be scheduled during these times to accurately gauge tick numbers.
- Tick numbers of all species peak over wet summers and naturally decline in winter, or with the dry season.
- Monitoring programs for ticks should include a combination of manual (using your fingertips and palm of your hand to feel for lumps) and visual inspection both in the paddock and during yarding.
- Ticks are typically found in places that are difficult for animals to lick or rub.
- For advice on tick monitoring ask your local Biosecurity Officer or regional professional service provider.
- The primary areas to search for cattle tick are the tail butt and escutcheon with secondary areas the flank, belly, dewlap, neck and ear. For more details see how to count cattle tick and best time to count cattle tick.
- Stock in cattle-tick-free and control zones should be monitored regularly to ensure early detection of any cattle tick infestations. Stock owners must monitor cattle for ticks and follow movement regulations for animals being transported across a tick free zone and or interstate.
- Larvae, unfed and male ticks are difficult to find because they are very small (less than 2mm). Fully engorged female ticks are large (>10mm) and easy to see, but the majority drop from cattle overnight, and early in the morning, to lay eggs on the pasture, so they can be missed during daytime inspections of animals. For this reason cattle tick monitoring focuses on semi-engorged female ticks 4.5 – 8 mm long. These ticks will fully engorge and drop within 24 hours.
Bush and paralysis ticks
- Larval ticks are attracted to carbon dioxide, this is how they find their host, so a good place to search for bush and paralysis ticks is around the face and ears. For more details see monitoring for other ticks.
Figure 1. Maps showing the distribution of economically important ticks of cattle in Australia. Image courtesy of Virbac.