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Cattle Lice

By: Dr. Jay Bobb

Last year we saw an explosion of lice on the local cattle herds, with loss of hair, constant itching and decreased performance.  Producers had lice infestations regardless of the products they had used for the fall treatment plans.  Due to a large number of questions on lice control I did some checking and decided it was easiest to make a short list of lice facts:

  1. There are basically two types of lice. By far the most common is the chewing louse, they basically live by chewing on the animal’s skin and hair.  The second type is the sucking lice, there are three species of the sucking type.   The sucking lice have heads that penetrate the animal’s skin and feed on the animal’s blood.
  2. The most important thing to know is that lice can be eliminated from a herd by doing these simple steps:

Keep the entire herd isolated, no new additions after treatment.

Treat the entire herd with an approved product, AND RETREAT 14 to 21 days later

Any new additions must be treated twice before being added to the herd

The second dose is necessary to kill the newly hatched lice that were only egg stage at the time of the first treatment

3. Lice spread by direct contact
4. None of the products kill the egg stage, thus the reason for two treatments
5. Winter is the peak of lice activity due to the fact that cold temperatures are ideal for the lice to reproduce
6. Injectable formulations are not effective against chewing lice
7. Single fall pour on programs will not give winter long protection
8. Carrier animals exist and should be culled from the herd
9. Do not apply the first dose too early in the fall (September) much better control is achieved when the first dose is given late October or November
10. Lice cannot survive in heat above 104 degrees, a mature cow with black hair standing in bright sunlight in the summer will have surface body temperature up to 115 degrees which is lethal to the lice
11. All the products are effective, never underdose, use the maximum approved level

There are lots of effective products on the market, and if you had lice problems on the herd last year make sure to give the second dose two or three weeks after the initial dose.  If you notice an animal in the summer months with a lice infestation she most likely is a “carrier” and should be culled.

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