Tick paralysis

Prevention of tick paralysis revolves around –

  • Reducing paralysis tick numbers and preventing paralysis tick attachment.
  • Killing attached paralysis ticks before signs of tick paralysis take place.
  • Reducing susceptibility to paralysis ticks.

Reducing paralysis tick numbers and preventing paralysis tick attachment

As the paralysis tick is a 3-host tick, reducing tick numbers is less about treating the cattle and more about strategies to control the environment.

The native hosts cannot be treated with tickicides, and the most common host, the bandicoot, is a protected native species.

The most common losses are from tick paralysis in young calves so some strategies that may help reduce numbers and prevent attachment are –

  • Identify low risk paddocks with a low / non-existent native host population for calving paddocks.

- Paddocks with evidence of bandicoot activity (small holes created by rooting in the soil) are best avoided.

- Bandicoots favour open grassland paddocks, especially where Sally Wattle and Black Wattle grow.

- Paddocks that have been burnt in the last 5 years are lower risk as fire destroys the population of bugs in the leaf litter that the bandicoots seek.

  • Use paddocks that have historically low numbers of paralysis ticks for calving paddocks.
  • Consider moving calving patterns away from the high tick danger periods of August to December.
  • Removal of mulch and dead grass by slashing can help expose the off animal stages of the paralysis tick life cycle to environmental extremes and help reduce numbers.
  • Treatment of adult cattle before movement into low risk paddocks may help reduce contamination by larvae, nymphs and adults.

Killing attached paralysis ticks before signs of tick paralysis occur

Unfortunately there are no long acting acaricides registered for treatment of paralysis ticks in cattle.

Treatment of paralysis ticks on cattle is usually with an amitraz, cypermethrin or flumethrin based spray. Dependant on climactic conditions, duration of activity is only 5 to 10 days. Ear tags containing synthetic pyrethroids (SPs) can aid in the control of paralysis tick on suckling beef and dairy calves for up to 42 days.

Paralysis ticks can attach to calves literally at the time of birth, and can cause paralysis as early as 4 days of age. Regular mustering to apply chemical sprays is expensive and frequently results in mis-mothering problems.

Use of home remedies such as injections of oil of turpentine have shown to be ineffective and create residue issues. Their use is strongly discouraged and indeed there use may lead to legal liability issues. The use of dietary supplements such as sulphur lick blocks has also failed to be of proven benefit for repelling ticks.

Reducing Susceptibility

It is generally accepted that herds that have a greater than 50% Bos indicus genetic content have greater innate tick resistance and therefore are less likely to be affected in tick paralysis areas (see breed selection). This strategy may be the only viable alternative in some areas.