Fever ticks carry Babesia protozoa, which cause cattle fever characterized by acute anemia, high fever, and enlargement of the spleen and liver, ultimately resulting in death for many infected cattle.
Fever ticks carry Babesia protozoa, which cause cattle fever characterized by acute anemia, high fever, and enlargement of the spleen and liver, ultimately resulting in death for many infected cattle.

Texas and USDA officials are taking steps to prevent further spread of cattle fever ticks in southeastern Texas. Last summer, animal health officials confirmed that the fever ticks, which can carry the protozoa Babesia bovis or B. bigemina, have spread outside the permanent quarantine area along the Mexican border.

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) confirmed fever ticks on a premises in Live Oak County in late November 2016, and this week announced seven additional infested premises in the county. In addition to the Live Oak County Control Purpose Quarantine Area (CPQA), there are six other CPQAs located in portions of Jim Wells, Kleberg, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties and one Temporary Preventative Quarantine Zone in Cameron County. There are approximately 541,462 acres under various types of fever tick quarantines outside the Permanent Quarantine Zone, according to the TAHC.

Cattle fever is a severe and often fatal disease of cattle transmitted by cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus annulatus, and southern cattle ticks, R. microplus. These ticks, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission, can carry the protozoa Babesia bovis or B. bigemina, commonly known as cattle fever. The Babesia organism attacks and destroys red blood cells, causing acute anemia, high fever, and enlargement of the spleen and liver, ultimately resulting in death for up to 90 percent of susceptible naive cattle.

In Early December, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released an environmental assessment (EA) titled, Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program Use of Ivermectin Corn. The assessment analyzes the potential environmental impact of reducing cattle tick populations on white-tailed deer by feeding them corn treated with ivermectin.

APHIS requested public comments on the plan, and the comment period ended on December 27, 2016.

The plan to strategically treat deer with ivermectin conforms with recommendations South Texas producers and the NCBA provided the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service last summer. They suggested a three-pronged management plan to stop the spread of the ticks. This approach would include:

·         Graze cattle on federal properties. As the preferred host for fever ticks, these cattle could be periodically gathered and treated, to break the lifecycle of the parasite.

·         Strategic treatment of wildlife. Administering a broad-spectrum parasite treatment in wildlife feed, at strategic times, has been shown to reduce tick populations in the permanent quarantine zone.

·         Reduce wildlife densities in problem areas. Nilgai, an exotic antelope species known to contribute to the spread of ticks, travel long distances, and their growing populations in the region pose a threat to surrounding areas.

Find the APHIS environmental assessment document on the government regulations website.