The most economically important tick affecting livestock in Australia is the cattle tick - Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus.
A recent MLA research project estimated that the annual on-farm cost of ticks (production losses plus control costs) to the Australian cattle industry is approximately $146m. Additional costs are incurred maintaining the 'tick line' inspection points between New South Wales and Queensland and the tick line within Queensland.
Young cattle and goats in the coastal areas of eastern Australia may also be affected by the paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus. Information on paralysis ticks is available in the NSW Department of Industry & Investment publication Paralysis ticks.
The cattle tick is primarily a parasite of cattle in northern Australia, with European breeds of cattle most susceptible. Cattle ticks can also survive on other animals eg sheep, goats and horses.
Cattle ticks spread tick fever, or 'red water', a disease caused by the blood parasites Anaplasma marginale, Babesia bovis and Babesia bigemina.
Conditions where cattle tick is likely to occur
- Infestation with cattle tick usually occurs within the endemic regions of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
- In endemic regions, highest numbers of ticks occur in late spring and summer.
Sporadic infestations with cattle tick can occur outside the tick endemic regions. Cattle tick is a notifiable disease, and management and eradication on infected properties outside the tick endemic regions is prescribed and regulated by the appropriate statutory authority.
Identifying and diagnosing cattle tick
Clinical signs that would lead producers to suspect an infestation of cattle tick include the following:
- Engorged female ticks (pea to blueberry size) visible (particularly the neck, brisket, flanks and between the hind legs).
- Licking and rubbing at the bite sites (tick worry).
- Tick sores and ulceration.
- Pale gums and membranes around the eyes (anaemia).
- Lack of energy, loss of condition, death.
Prevention strategies for cattle tick
Integrated control of ticks includes the use of resistant cattle, chemical treatments, the tick vaccine and tick-safe pastures.