Cattle lice thrive through winter; need treatment plan

US - We usually think of the winter as our escape from pesky insects, however, cattle lice thrive during the cold weather and increase their populations on cattle. Now is the time of the year to evaluate cattle for lice and plan a treatment if necessary.
calendar icon 20 February 2007
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Lice have been accused of being the most underestimated livestock insect in terms of economic loss; USDA estimates that U.S. producers lose $125 million a year to cattle lice.

Cattle that are infected with lice are generally in poor condition with rough, patchy hair coats. Lice or their eggs can be visually detected, especially those severely infected. Heavy lice populations cause lowered milk production, decreased flesh growth, unthriftiness and anemia which can also affect reproduction and the immune system.

Research at the University of Nebraska has shown that moderate to heavy lice infestation can depress weight gain by 0.12 pounds per day in the feedlot.

Understanding the treatment and prevention of lice would be beneficial in any cattle operation.

There are five species of lice that live on cattle. The shortnosed cattle louse are the most common in adult animals and often cause the most loss. This type is frequently found in and on the ears, along the dewlap and brisket, and on the tailhead. Shortnosed lice are the largest of the five species found in the U.S., measuring about 1/8 of an inch and their eggs are whitish.

Longnosed cattle louse tend to infest younger calves. They can be found anywhere on the animal, usually few in number on adult cattle. Longnosed louse are smaller and more slender than shortnosed and they have a pointed head. The eggs from longnosed louse are bluish-black in color.

The Little Blue cattle louse tends to stay on the head of cattle - near the eyes, cheeks and muzzles. This species is the smallest of the cattle lice and are more common in the southwest and Gulf of Mexico portion of the country.

Source: Farm & Ranch Guide

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