Cows spend their days in long grass and old barns, both of which are breeding grounds for fleas, ticks, and other parasites. Cows spend so much time there, they must be immune to this type of thing, right?
Cows are susceptible to ticks and fleas, especially if they Cows who live in barns are more susceptible to fleas, and cows who spend a long time out in the pasture are more susceptible to ticks. Both fleas and ticks can cause serious issues for cattle, so farmers do what they can to protect their cattle from parasites.
In this article we’ll look at how fleas and ticks affect cows, how and where they tend to catch them, and what farmers can do to help protect their cows.
Can Cows Get Ticks?
Cows can get ticks, especially if they spend a lot of time in long grass or other overgrown pasture where ticks thrive.
Read More: How Much Land Do Cows Need?
Luckily, ticks are usually fairly harmless for cows, however they can carry some pretty nasty diseases.
Even though these are rare, it’s not worth the risk because disease can move through an entire herd quickly once it takes hold. Farmers are quite diligent when it comes to checking for ticks and treating infected cattle.
Read More: How Many Cows Make a Herd?
Where Do Cows Get Ticks?
Cows get ticks from the long grass where they graze. Ticks need damp conditions to survive, so tend to live in long grasses and weeds, where they can shelter from direct sunlight. Unfortunately for cows, long grass and weeds are their favorite things, and ticks commonly affect cows and other livestock.
What Effect do Ticks Have On Cows?
There are a number of tick-borne illnesses and diseases that can affect cattle, randing from mostly harmless problems like irritation of the skin to fatal illnesses like bovine babesiosis, which is carried by some dangerous tick species.
Common cattle illnesses cause by ticks include:
- Skin irritation
- Infection of areas of broken skin
- Louping ill virus
- Bovine babesiosis (Redwater Fever)
Louping ill virus is a fatal infection of the nervous system. In Scotland, the word ‘louping’ means leaping, which makes sense as cattle infected with louping ill leap and spasm uncontrollably as their nervous system is damaged by the infection.
Bovine babesiosis is a tick-borne disease that causes fever and anorexia in cattle. Sometimes known as Redwater Fever because it turns the urine of infected cattle red, this disease is usually fatal.
Anaplasmosis is a parasitic infection of the blood which is spread in cattle by ticks and other exoparasites. It can be fatal if left unchecked, but is easy to treat with antibiotics.
Related Article: Does Milking Cows Hurt Them?
How To Stop Cows Getting Ticks
In most parts of the world, ticks can be easily controlled by using anti-tick medication. It’s usually administered orally, but can also come in the form of a vaccine.
Farmers may also choose to cut back areas of tall weeds where ticks thrive, or install an anti-tick eartag on their cows to prevent ticks from making their way into a cow’s ear.
In some parts of the world where there are more dangerous tick species, concerted tick eradication efforts have taken place.
The most notable example is along the southern border of the United States, where the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) runs the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program.
This program aims to prevent the spread of Fever Ticks (which are common in Mexico and South America) from spreading to the rest of the United States, by conducting routine inspections of cattle, mandating anti-tick vaccinations, and by using tick treatments including spraying or dipping cattle using the anti-parasitic drug coumaphos.
Can Cows Get Fleas?
Yes, cows can catch fleas just like a dog or cat can. Fleas are attracted to the thick fur and warm bodies of cows and can be a big problem in cattle if not properly managed.
The type of fleas cows can catch are generally the same species that dogs catch (Ctenocephalides canis) and the same type of flea can affect cows, sheep, goats, and other livestock.
How Do Cows Catch Fleas?
Cows catch fleas mainly from their bedding. Fleas only live for around 30 days, but their eggs can stay dormant for up to six months on straw, grass, or other bedding found in barns and cow sheds.
Read More: Cow Sleeping Habits
When the cows go inside, the carbon dioxide in their breath and the heat of their bodies cause the fleas to hatch and latch on to the cows, where they live under their fur.
Fleas are tough to eradicate from farms because they are carried around by cattle and other livestock, birds, rats, and by the farmer when he moves around the bedding for the cows.
What Effect do Fleas Have on Cows?
Fleas are exoparasites, which means they live on the outside of the animal they are feeding on. They cause itching to the cows’ skin, but usually don’t carry more serious diseases.
The biggest threat from fleas is that a cow may injure themselves while trying to scratch away the fleas. If the cow breaks their skin it can become infected.
Although fleas are usually not seriously dangerous for cows, in some cases fleas can carry diseases that affect other animals, including African Swine Fever, which is a fata flea-borne disease affecting pigs.
Naturally, farmers take flea control seriously and along with anti-tick medication, flea medication is very common.
Read Also: What Eats Cows?
Methods for Controlling Fleas in Cattle
Only around 5% of any given flea population are live fleas. The rest are eggs or larvae, which can remain dormant for up to six months, waiting for a cow to come and lie on them.
To control a flea infestation in cattle, farmers need to clear out the area where the fleas live (usually straw or hay being used as bedding in a warm, humid barn). The cattle themselves are then treated with an anti-flea medication or a spray to get rid of any fleas already on the cow.
Related Article: Do Cows Sweat?
Cows can get ticks and fleas. Cows usually catch ticks from the long grass they graze on, and fleas from the bedding they sleep on when they sleep in a barn.
Ticks are more dangerous than fleas for cattle since they can carry deadly diseases, but fleas are a major problem nonetheless due to their ability to transmit disease that affects other animals.
Luckily, both ticks and fleas are fairly easy to prevent with regular vaccines and medication, and infected cattle can be treated with a simple insecticide spray.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.