The recent detection of tick fever on two properties on the New South Wales Mid North Coast has prompted a reminder to cattle producers to manage pests and the diseases they can carry as part of their on-farm biosecurity plan.
While cattle ticks are uncommon so far south, Animal Health Australia’s Senior Manager Biosecurity, Dr Rob Barwell, says these two cases highlight the need for vigilance, especially outside of known infested zones.
“Cattle ticks are among the most damaging parasites we face as an industry, causing serious health complications leading to production losses and heavy control costs totaling around $150m each year,” Dr Barwell said.
“Producers should always be conscious of the risks posed by cattle ticks and insect pests, especially when moving cattle across established control lines.”
Tick fever causes a range of symptoms, including a drop in milk production, abortion or infertility, fever, jaundice and anemia. If not caught and treated early, it can be a killer.
“For this reason, regular monitoring of livestock is vital, as this allows you to stay ahead of the disease,” said Dr Barwell.
“Comprehensive records of animal movements also allows authorities to trace affected animals back to the source of infection, and ensure that other properties do not become infested.”
As cattle ticks can travel on other livestock, as well as on feral animals – such as deer – producers in the infested zone should be prepared for a range of possible entry points.
“Make sure your fencing is in good order and your livestock cannot mix with other animals,” said Dr Barwell.
“Isolate new animals and treat for cattle ticks where necessary. Livestock moving from an infested area to a tick-free area may bring ticks with them, while cattle moving from a tick-free area to an infested area are at the greatest risk of contracting tick fever.”
In most states and territories producers have a legal obligation to report suspected cases of cattle tick to their department of agriculture. When in doubt, contact the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
Producers who want to know more about on-farm biosecurity for beef cattle farms can visit the Beef industry page on the Farm Biosecurity website.