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Paralysis tick numbers on the rise

CalvesThe North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarians have warned cattle producers about an increasing number of paralysis ticks on the North Coast.  The paralysis tick can be seen all year round but the adults are most active from August to December.

Paralysis ticks produce a nerve toxin in their saliva that is passed to the host during feeding and the main effect of this toxin is to impair normal muscle function. Cows and calves may be affected by the toxin and it is a very common cause of deaths in calves.

Calves will usually be found down or staggering and, as the toxin starts to affect the heart and breathing muscles, breathing becomes laboured, and, eventually, the calf can die.

Dr Elizabeth Bolin, District Veterinarian advised that treatment involves:

  • removing all visible paralysis ticks and treating with a registered tick product
  • keeping the animals in the shade as the toxin affects the animal’s normal thermoregulation
  • the administration of tick antitoxin, by a registered veterinarian.

Dr Bolin continues “There are a number of prevention methods available to cattle producers including dips and sprays and an insecticidal ear tag currently registered for the prevention of paralysis ticks.

“When using sprays or dips it is necessary to wet the entire animal for the product to be most effective and reapplication is necessary within seven to 14 days.”

There is currently no registered pour-on or injectable product available for the control of paralysis ticks in cattle, however, other management strategies producers can undertake to help minimise tick burdens include:

  • cleaning out scrubby gullies of lantana
  • calve in the cleanest paddocks and keep cows and calves in the clean paddocks for the first eight to 10 weeks of life
  • treat early in the season prior to tick numbers increasing
  • always ensure that cattle have an adequate level of nutrition.

For more information please contact your private veterinarian or the North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarian team.

Media contact:
Liz Bolin, District Veterinarian, 0412 303 907

Photo captions:
Calves are particularly susceptible to paralysis ticks, often resulting in death.