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Update on fever ticks

published: April 7th 2017
by: Joe C. Paschal
source: ICA of Texas

In the past few months I have had the pleasure of talking to two different ICA chapters, the Guada-Coma and the Gonzales. Carilyn John invites me up to Seguin for the Guada-Coma Chapter meeting on a regular basis (at least once a year) and this year was no different. The event is well attended by their members, at the Seguin Cattle Company where the meetings are held, and is a great place to host the event. Over the past several years they have supported many scholarships for local high school students. 

Last week, I was invited to speak by Barbara Hand at the Gonzales ICA Chapter. In the late 1990s they gave me an appreciation award, which I still have in my office (along with my ICA President’s Council Award). They also support many activities including their local livestock shows. In both meetings, it was great to see so many old friends and to make several new ones.
The topic of the day for both meetings was the fever tick outbreak and the control purpose quarantine area (CPQA) in Live Oak County that was established last year because of the discovery of fever ticks in eight locations or premises (now nine). Although a fever tick outbreak is worrisome for several reasons, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) is doing an excellent job inspecting cattle in the CPQA and conducting trace outs for cattle that have moved from Live Oak County to other counties (over 40 now). I know that those affected in the CPQA may feel differently, but considering staffing, funding and current tools, they are doing a fantastic job. It is a Herculean effort. 
Fever ticks are not a concern by themselves. We have many other types of ticks on cattle, horses and wildlife. The real problem with fever ticks is that they are the only ticks that can carry babesiosis or Cattle Fever. Texas does not have babesiosis, but Mexico does and, more importantly, they also have two species of fever ticks. As long as ticks are kept from hosts that carry babesiosis (and an estimated 50% of Mexican cattle are reported to carry the disease), there is little chance of spreading by the fever tick. We owe a debt of thanks to the USDA Veterinary Services Tick Force, who patrol the narrow Perma-nent Quarantine Zone along the Rio Grande River checking for and treating cattle and wildlife with fever ticks.
All the fever tick quarantines in Texas encompass about one-half million acres. There are CPQAs in Cameron, Jim Wells and Kleberg counties as well as temporary quarantines in other counties along the border. If we lose control of ticks, other states can and will enforce a quarantine that could cost Texas hundreds of millions of dollars.
I was able to listen to Dr. Brodie Miller, the TAHC Area Veterinarian based in Beeville who is responsible for overseeing the Live Oak outbreak, at a recent meeting near Three Rivers for local veterinarians. He covered the history of the tick eradication and control efforts and asked the veterinarians to help local cattle raisers identify ticks on their cattle. He discussed a number of things to look for that would differentiate fever ticks from other ticks. These include their feeding locations, ease of removal, lack of coloring, and slow movement, as well as differences in physical characteristics including small mouth parts, large shoulders and a six-sided head piece (as opposed to a four sided one found in most ticks). A TAHC YouTube recording of Dr. Brodie from a producer meeting in January  is available at https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=6ZfnKQ2C9cA. I would en-courage you to watch it.

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