Livestock production: Tick control – a simple strategy to save animals and restore productivity to your herd

High tick loads cause severe production losses in livestock and reduce disease resistance. Ticks are also carriers of a number of potentially fatal, and flat-out fatal, tick-borne diseases.

Millions of cattle die in the sub-region every year, because they have not been dipped – it’s a tragic, fundamental truth.

But here’s the good news; a huge percentage of the production loss and the mortalities can become a thing of the past, if stockowners follow an inexpensive dipping programme, and stick to it. If you are worried about the cost of the acaricide (tick control dip) – do a quick calculation of the value of your animal/s and compare to the cost of the dip.


If common sense, and the desire to protect your asset, prevails, you, the stockowner, will not wait for the government to build dip tanks; firstly, while you hang around, more animals will die unnecessarily, and secondly, there are many benefits associated with using a hand sprayer to dip, rather than putting cattle through a dip tank.

“While you are hand spraying stock, you have an opportunity to check your animals. It’s an invaluable management tool,” says Dr Danie.

Thorough inspection of the animal entails procedures like looking under the body and into the ears. There is no substitute for this type of hands on management, especially in smaller herds. If there is a problem of any kind, this is where it will be picked up.

Every stockman (or stockwoman) needs a crush in which to handle cattle; it is a piece of essential infrastructure in stock farming, and yet 90% of small-scale cattle farmers don’t have one. “No crush, no dip,” explains Dr Danie. The outcome of “no dip” is cattle mortalities.

A stockman uses a backpack with a hand sprayer on this Nguni cross herd. The crush has been constructed mainly from lengths of round bar; at the top end there is a head clamp for handling individual animals.

A basic, low-cost crush can be put up with relative ease, using available materials.

Properly diluted, and applied, strictly according to the instructions on the insert literature that comes with the dip, it can cost as little as 68c (Zambian) to dip a cow effectively through a spray race. The cost will vary with the acaricide used and with the method. But the dipping compounds registered for spraying are very strong, and it takes only a millilitre or two to make up a litre of dip.

The dilution depends on the mixing directions for the specific product. If a ready-mixed, pour-on, is used the cost of treating the animal should still not be more than K1.37. So, spraying animals with correctly diluted dip is the most cost-effective way for small-scale livestock farmers to treat for ticks. The top-line spray treatments are a little more expensive.

If we take the value of a cow at K7 500 (a conservative estimate) – do the math – even if the treatment needs to be repeated 20 times a year it’s always going to be worth it.

Responsible livestock owners should never allow a situation to occur where the animals are covered in ticks. Effective monitoring of the herd means regular inspection. In summer, you may have to dip once a week; a period which can be extended to once every two weeks in the cooler season.

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