Livestock production: Dipping and tick control

Question: How long does a dip work against ticks?

This is an issue that causes a lot of confusion among livestock farmers. To understand tick control, it’s essential to have the basic knowledge about the ticks’ feeding period on the animal.

There are 2 groups of ticks:

  • The first type gets onto cattle as very small ticks (larvae), usually invisible to the naked eye.
  • These small ticks feed and develop over a period of at least 20 days before the female ticks engorge to become very visible, just before they fall off to produce eggs.
  • The male ticks remain fairly small and can stay on cattle longer.
  • Such ticks are called one-host ticks because they complete their entire feeding cycle on one animal.
  • The blue tick is the most important one-host tick.
  • Most other kinds of ticks are already adults when they get onto cattle and small stock.
  • The young ticks feed and develop on other small creatures, such as birds (guinea fowl), hares and small game.
  • The adult ticks attach when they get onto livestock and the female engorges with blood within 7 days.
  • These are called multi-host ticks.
  • The bont tick, bont-legged tick, red-legged tick and brown eartick are examples.

Also read: Cattle production: A comprehensive introduction to ticks and tick-borne diseases


When a dipping compound is applied to livestock it will kill ticks already on the animal and new ticks that get onto the animals for up to 5 days. Thereafter, ticks that get onto the animal usually survive.

If blue ticks (one-host ticks) are the only problem, effective tick treatment will kill at all the stages of the ticks and engorged adult blue ticks will only be visible again after about 26 days.

For multi-host ticks this period is much shorter. Bont ticks that get onto the animal more than 5 days after the treatment will survive and engorged adult female ticks can be seen within 10 days after an effective treatment.

The dipping interval has to be adapted to the type of tick that needs to be controlled. To prevent damage caused by fast-feeding multi-host ticks, the treatment interval has to be at least once a week in the period that these ticks are active – mainly during the warmest time of year.

Discuss this with the veterinarian from whom you obtain tick control products.

Also read:
Watch for tick-borne diseases
More about ticks for stockmen and women
Know your ticks and the diseases they bring

  • This article was written by Dr. Danie Odendaal and first appeared in Farming SA.

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