It is often said ‘dynamite comes in small packages’, and the ant has been known for killing an elephant. These adages ring true when it comes to cattle diseases.
The tick, an often regular visitor to the cattle kraal, is one of the most potent threats to animal health, and has been known to cause a variety of diseases to livestock.
Ticks cause severe damage to cattle, especially around the udder and ears.
The wound will often get infected with bacteria and might be attacked by flies.
Some ticks cause greater damage than others, such as the ones that infect cattle with heartwater, red water and gall sickness. It is, therefore, critical in ensuring vaccinations are administered correctly.
Many times, farmers complain that cows are not producing at the desired rate, or that many of them are losing their calves at birth.
Most of these are largely attributed to vaccination or the lack thereof.
Vaccination helps animals become healthy and immune to certain diseases by building antibodies to fight others.
Vaccines can prevent a wide range of diseases that can cause reduced production, fertility or death in cattle, and economic losses to producers.
Vaccines can also protect cattle against clostridial diseases, reproductive and respiratory diseases, as well as calf scours, bovine ephemeral fever and pinkeye.
Experts say following directions on the vaccine label is vital to ensure the vaccination programme is effective, and to prevent residues in slaughtered animals.
Discussing your vaccination programme with your private or government veterinarian will help you decide which vaccinations will be most valuable in maintaining your herd’s health and profitability.
European breeds tend to be at greater risk than young animals for red water and gall sickness. Prevention for all of these tick-borne diseases is by tick control. You could either use a pour-on, or a plunge dip or spray dip if you have the facilities for this.
Pour-ons can be easier to use, and you do not need additional facilities – but these are more expensive.
You may need to treat ticks as often as once a week in the wet season and then every second week in the dry season.
You may be able to treat less often if you vaccinate the cattle against tick-borne diseases.
Vaccination is best done in calves under six months of age – and one dose is sufficient.
The heartwater vaccine is injected into the vein, and it must be administered by a veterinarian.
Because these are live vaccines, signs of disease can occur, and treatment may be needed following vaccination, especially for the heartwater vaccine.
As you can see, ticks are not to be underestimated; they can do damage that is often beyond repair. Do the right thing and keep a strict animal vaccination programme.