Ask the Vet

Tick Control Critical

Diseases caused by ticks can be extremely costly. (Progressive Farmer photo by Victoria G. Myers)


We noticed some cows and calves with droopy ears and got them up. They had lots of ticks inside their ears. We have used ear tags for years and never had a problem until this season. We treated them with a fly spray we use when we castrate calves, but I'm worried about the rest of the herd. Do you have any suggestions?


We have seen an increase in the incidence of ticks on cattle recently along with hot, humid weather. Heavy infestations can lead to serious infection in the ears, as well as anemia—which can have a huge impact on production and profits. Additionally, ticks carry potentially fatal diseases including anaplasmosis.

Of even greater concern is the reintroduction of ticks that carry Texas Cattle Fever. This was an extremely costly disease that was essentially eradicated from the United States by 1943 and could now have a devastating effect because our naive cattle population has never been exposed to it.

Treatment with sprays directly in the ears can be effective if cattle are in the chute, but this is labor intensive and does not provide long-term control. Fly tags were actually developed for tick control and can still be very effective, but they lose their effectiveness as the season progresses.

This could be part of your problem. One option would be to remove old tags and reapply new ones using a different class of insecticide. As with fly control, back rubs and dust bags, pour-ons and high-pressure sprays can also be effective. Keeping pastures mowed and brush cut back can also reduce tick populations.