Now that cattle are housed across the country, winter is the most common time to see infestations with external parasites such as lice and mange mites.

In recent weeks, some beef farmers may have noticed their cattle starting to scratch off feed barriers and gates; this is caused by an external parasite infestation.

There are two forms of lice – biting and sucking. As a result, cattle will become itchy and begin licking themselves and use their tails to scratch.

In some cases, animals can lose their coats and their skin can become inflamed. If the infestation worsens, growth rates can be affected.

  • Scratching;
  • Licking;
  • Tail swinging;
  • Hair loss;
  • Inflamed skin.

Therefore, treatment is essential to reduce the risk of disease and optimise animal performance.

Speaking to AgriLand, MSD Animal Health’s ruminant product manager John Heslin outlined some control measures and methods of treatment.

“In order to control external parasites on your cattle, farmers need to focus on the housing and the management of their cattle; so stocking rate can be very important.

There are many treatments available for external parasites in cattle – pour-ons and injectable products.

“As a general rule, a pour-on product is best for lice control, but – regardless of the treatment used – it is important to follow the instructions so that the correct dose is given and given correctly.”

Continuing, he said: “All in-contact animals should be treated at the same time during housing and monitoring the situation throughout the winter is recommended.”

For lice control, it is generally best to clip the backs of cattle if using a pour-on product. In addition, mange mites can be controlled in the same way, but some injectable products can also be used to control these parasites.

Injectable and pour-on products can be used for mange mites and sucking lice, but only pour-on products are affective against biting lice.

“There are some Deltamethrin-based products on the market and these products provide eight-to-10 weeks’ protection against lice. This decreases the need to run cattle through the crush and – therefore – labour is reduced on the farm,” he concluded.