Cattle lice thrive in winter weather. It is a common pest that can bite into ranchers’ profits while cattle have their winter coats, providing ideal conditions for lice populations to grow and hinder cattle health.
Dr. M. Wayne Ayers, Elanco Animal Health beef cattle technical consultant, said proper timing, product dosage and application are key for combating lice and keeping cattle productive.
He noted lice infestations are as much an emotional issue as they are an economic issue for ranchers.
“These parasites not only affect the well-being of cattle and the producer’s bottom line, but they can also stir up emotions,” Ayers said. “It’s disheartening to see cattle with patchy, balding hides, and the sight of them incessantly rubbing and scratching on fence posts and equipment is a painful one. The hair loss caused by lice can also lead to reduced market value, adding to the emotional burden.”
Cattle infested with lice focus on scratching instead of eating. Ayers said this can cause a reduction in average daily gain of 0.042 lb.
“Fighting lice can be a difficult proposition because once you have one, they can quickly multiply into more. However, understanding the louse life cycle can help determine how to break the cycle and prevent infestations,” he said.
There are two types of lice—sucking and chewing—that can live on cattle.
Sucking lice are most often found on the neck, dewlap, brisket, shoulder, back, tail head and down to the switch and feed on the host’s blood.
Chewing lice are initially found on the shoulder and backline, but as populations increase, they can be found over the entire body. They feed on hair, skin, skin exudates and debris near the skin surface.
Lice develop in three stages—eggs, nymph and adult—and they often grow quicker in colder weather, according to Ayers.
“Once lice become an issue, it’s often difficult to stop them,” he said. “Assuming all eggs develop into adults, mathematically a single adult female louse in September can result in 1 million lice by January, if not controlled.”
To combat an infestation, it is important to consider proper product dosage, application and timing.
“While producers often add on lice control when conducting other management practices, that may not be the best time to apply the product and may not provide the control needed to last the entire lice season,” Ayers said.
He noted it is important for ranchers to consult with their veterinarians on a proper treatment plan.
Symptoms include rubbing, biting, scratching and hair loss on the neck, shoulders and rump.
Lice are transmitted through physical contact.
After discovering active lice, Ayers said it is important to determine the proper dosage by weight and follow application directions.
“Most lice control products only kill the adults but not the eggs. It’s recommended to give a second application two to three weeks following the first one to kill the adults that hatch from the original eggs and ultimately halt the lice life cycle,” Ayers said.
After animals are treated, Ayers said it is critical to keep treated animals from untreated. He also recommends considering an early-season knockdown and evaluating mid-season.
“It becomes clear that a comprehensive approach to lice control is essential, one that not only safeguards the economic interests of cattle producers but also acknowledges and alleviates the emotional burden,” Ayers said.
To learn more about a strategic lice control protocol, talk with your veterinarian.
February is romance time – especially for skunks
February is known for Valentine’s Day. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, February is also the prime month for breeding season for skunks in Texas. The most common species of skunk in our part of the state is the striped skunk. They have two white stripes on their backs that join in the neck region. They have five toes on each foot. Striped skunks construct their homes wherever a convenient place is found. Striped skunks are gregarious, living in families from the time the young are old enough to walk until they are able to fend for themselves.
Their breeding season is usually February through March. They have a gestation period of 62-75 days. Most young skunks are born in May. On average, five young are born per litter. Young striped skunks’ eyes and ears open after about 30 days, at which time they are able to musk (spray). They are weaned at 8-10 weeks of age. Once the babies are able to leave their dens they follow their mother about. Dispersal of family units take place usually in Autumn.
Striped skunks are omnivorous. Insects constitute over ½ of their diet. They will eat nesting birds’ eggs, field mice, young rabbits, and small reptiles. Skunks have few natural enemies. Most predators are repulsed by the odor of their musk. Skunks have musk glands located at the base of their tail. A skunk has voluntary control over the glands and can control the direction in which the musk is discharged. According to Extension Wildlife Specialists, the glands only contain about one tablespoon of musk at a time. Striped skunks are highly susceptible to being struck by vehicles. Individuals seldom live more than 2 years in the wild. Skunks are highly susceptible to rabies. According to Texas Department of Health records skunks accounted for 52% of confirmed rabid animals from 1956-2002. This susceptibility to the rabies virus serves to keep populations under control. Other species of skunks found in Texas are spotted, hooded, and hog-nosed skunks.