Cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus annulatus, and southern cattle ticks, R. microplus carry the protozoa Babesia bovis or B. bigemina, commonly known as cattle fever.
Cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus annulatus, and southern cattle ticks, R. microplus carry the protozoa Babesia bovis or B. bigemina, commonly known as cattle fever.

Wildlife have contributed to the spread of cattle fever ticks into Texas from Mexico, and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is exploring strategic use of ivermectin in wildlife feed as a tool for eradicating the pests.

APHIS has prepared 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. Beginning December 6, APHIS is requesting that the public review and provide their comments, which should be submitted for review by or before December 27, 2016.

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.

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 EA document and a link for submitting comments on the government regulations website.

Read more about fever ticks and their movement into Texas on BovineVetOnline.com.