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Controlling tick fever in tick eradication areas

Take care to prevent tick fever outbreaks when you embark on a cattle tick eradication program or if your property is in an area where tick numbers are normally very low.

In these situations, very few cattle are likely to have natural immunity to tick fever. If tick control fails or ticks are reintroduced, tick fever could cause significant mortality and production loss.

The following tick fever control recommendations have been developed for cattle producers participating in a tick eradication program.

Recommendations for tick fever control

  • Vaccinate all heifer replacements and weaners with tick fever vaccine.
  • Vaccinate at or before 9 to 10 months of age - at weaning is often a convenient time.
  • Vaccinate for at least 3 years, and then reassess the need for vaccination when you can evaluate the success and scale of the eradication effort.
  • Depending on the risk, consider vaccinating existing adult stock and introductions.
  • Submit samples of any suspected cases of tick fever to our Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory.

Reasons to vaccinate while conducting tick eradication

Vaccination is a safety net against an outbreak of tick fever if tick eradication fails or ticks are reintroduced.

At 3 to 9 months of age, calves are naturally resistant to tick fever. Parasites carried by ticks can infect calves of this age with minimal clinical effects, and long-term immunity will result.

Tick eradication will stop calf exposure to tick fever parasites and the number of susceptible cattle will increase. If a tick control program fails or ticks are reintroduced, the losses in unvaccinated cattle are likely to be substantial.

Even in non-eradication areas, the level of natural exposure from ticks for all 3 tick fever parasites is often insufficient to ensure naturally acquired resistance by 9 months of age.

Risks of not vaccinating

If you don't vaccinate, the number of susceptible animals in your herd will increase, as more calves born after the start of tick eradication join the herd.

If eradication is successful, the risk of losses from tick fever will not increase, but if eradication fails or ticks are reintroduced, there is potential for large losses.

Vaccination costs only a few dollars per head. While you may never need the protection, it offers good insurance.

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