Professional service providers

Cattle tick is a serious economic pest of Australia’s northern cattle industry. It is also responsible for transmitting three blood-borne tick fever organisms, which cause sickness and death in cattle.

If you have concerns about cattle tick, talk to your veterinarian, your local Biosecurity Officer (BO) or contact your State or Territory Animal Health Laboratory.

The Queensland Government Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory (BSL) and Tick Fever Centre (TFC) are national, professional service providers that have the expertise and facilities to conduct acaricide resistance testing and disease diagnosis for tick fever.

Acaricide resistance testing

An investigation should be initiated where field breakdown in acaricide control is suspected. Where this breakdown is occurring with an acaricide group to which no resistance has been previously shown, contact the laboratory after collecting the relevant history, but before visiting the property and sending samples. Two tests are currently available for resistance testing; the Larval Packet Test (LPT) for organophosphate, synthetic pyrethroid, macrocyclic lactone and amitraz resistance detection, and the Adult Immersion Test (AIT) for fluazuron resistance testing. Resistant Tick Advice Sheets should accompany all tick samples for resistance investigation. These sheets are available from the laboratory and on the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) website. Usually, results will be available 7–8 weeks after receipt of suitable specimens.

Figure 1. Engorged adult ticks with a few blades of grass submitted for resistance testing, (a) viewed from above and (b) viewed from the side. Image courtesy of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Figure 1. Engorged adult ticks with a few blades of grass submitted for resistance testing, (a) viewed from above and (b) viewed from the side. Image courtesy of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Sample collection

Prior to tick collection it is advisable to call 13 25 23 and state where you are from and asked to be directed to your local Biosecurity Officer (BO). The Biosecurity Officer will help you with the submission of your tick sample.

If possible collect ticks prior to treatment or a minimum of 49 days post treatment. Ticks should be collected in the late afternoon or early morning. Female ticks engorge in the last 12 hours of their cycle on the animal and most drop off in the early morning or just after sunrise. At least 30–60 fully engorged ticks are required but send a larger sample if you can collect them. Collect only the large, fully engorged ticks as half-engorged and small ticks lay few eggs. Avoid damaging or squeezing the tick on removal.

Put ticks in a ventilated (holes no larger than 2-3 mm), escape-proof container that hasn’t been contaminated with chemicals, for example, a clean take away container or margarine container. Include 3–4 blades of green grass with the ticks to maintain moisture levels during transport (see Figure 1 below). Do not use cotton wool or damp paper towel. Keep away from all chemicals, sunlight and excessive heat. Ticks can die or be seriously affected if not cared for properly.

Complete a Resistant Tick Advice Form Resistant Tick Advice Sheet available from the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory (BSL) or on the DAF website. Supply as much information as possible, including current and previous acaricide use.

Dispatch promptly to the BSL using protective packaging such as a cardboard mailing box not a postal satchel. Ticks must be kept cool but not refrigerated. At optimum temperatures ticks will begin to lay eggs around 2–3 days after dropping from the animal.

Note: It is important that ticks for AIT fluazuron testing reach the laboratory before egg laying commences.

Submit samples to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory

Only veterinarians or Biosecurity Officers should submit samples to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory, unless you are advised otherwise.

Address samples to:

Specimen Receipt

Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory

(Loading Dock 12) Health and Food Science Precinct

39 Kessels Rd

Coopers Plains Qld 4108

You can contact the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory for assistance when submitting your samples.

Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory

Phone: (07) 3708 8762

Fax: (07) 3708 8860

Email: bslclo@daf.qld.gov.au

Tick fever diagnosis advice and laboratory services

Samples to collect

Blood and organ smears

Microscopic examination of blood and organ smears from sick or dead animals is the most commonly used procedure to confirm tick fever. These smears are best included as part of general sample submission after examination by a veterinarian or Biosecurity Officer. Clinical examination and submission of a broad range of appropriate samples give the best chance of making an accurate and useful diagnosis.

You can, however, prepare your own smears from affected animals and have them sent to our Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory by a veterinarian or Biosecurity Officer for a quick diagnosis of tick fever see 'Submit samples to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory' below).

Organ smears are also a valuable aid to diagnosis and can be made from animals that have been dead for up to 24 hours.

Blood and serum samples

Occasionally it is helpful to provide other blood samples in addition to smears if you are investigating disease in vaccinated animals. Please contact the Tick Fever Centre to discuss whether additional samples are required and which samples to collect (see 'Diagnostic services and advice' below).

In general, if you are investigating a:

  • potential vaccine breakdown (disease in animals previously vaccinated) - a serum sample is useful to assess vaccination status. It may also be worth collecting sera from a number of cattle vaccinated at the same time as the sick animals to assess vaccine 'take' across the group. Heparin or EDTA blood samples may also be useful to isolate a virulent strain if there is evidence of a number of vaccinated animals becoming sick.
  • potential vaccine reaction (disease in animals vaccinated within the last month) - an EDTA blood sample may be useful to distinguish vaccine organisms from naturally transmitted field organisms.

Contact the Tick Fever Centre for advice

You can contact the Tick Fever Centre for advice about:

  • Diagnosis of tick fever.
  • What samples to collect in your situation.

Tick Fever Centre

Phone: (07) 3270 9600

Email: tfc@daf.qld.gov.au

Submit samples to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory

Only veterinarians or Biosecurity Officers should submit samples to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory, unless advised otherwise.

Address samples to:

Specimen Receipt

Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory

(Loading Dock 12) Health and Food Science Precinct

39 Kessels Rd

Coopers Plains Qld 4108

You can contact the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory for assistance when submitting your samples.

Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory

Phone: (07) 3708 8762

Fax: (07) 3708 8860

Email: bslclo@daf.qld.gov.au