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A recent Meat and Livestock Australia report estimated that cattle tick and lice incur an annual cost to the cattle industry of $173 million and $81 million, respectively1.
Types Of Lice
Two types of lice affect cattle:
Biting lice (e.g. Bovicola bovis) - survive by feeding on skin cells
Sucking lice (e.g. Linognathus vituli) - survive by feeding on blood
Lice are more prevalent in winter and can’t survive extreme heat or exposure to sunlight.
They can hide in the longer winter coat of cattle, close to the skin and typically first appear around the base of the tail or in front of the shoulders because they survive the heat of summer on the underside of the animal between the front and back legs of cattle where they are more protected.
When cattle stand closer together to keep warm during cooler weather, this facilitates the spread of lice from one animal to the next.
Cause irritation and scratching, which leads to hide damage and possible secondary infection of the skin with bacteria
Cattle may have reduced feed intake due to itchiness
For a lice treatment program to be effective, all animals in a herd must be treated
What does this mean for you?
The economic costs are primarily through low growth rates in stressed cattle1 and hide damage, as well as having animal welfare implications.
Itchy cattle can damage valuable infrastructure, such as fences and yards as they rub and scratch to relieve the constant irritation.
Reduction in productivity including weight gains by limiting feed intake while the stock are stressed.
Solutions and Next Steps
There are many different lice treatments available to producers, including spray or shower treatments, pour-ons, injectables and ear tags.
Treatment for lice can usually coincide with a strategic drench for internal parasites in March to May in most regions where lice are an issue.
Treatment of cattle lice is most effective when carried out prior to the peak lice season with all cattle treated within a 7 to 10 day period.
1. Meat and Livestock Australia. Priority list of endemic diseases for the red meat industries. Published March 2015. Project code B.AHE.0010