As we get deeper into the winter season and the cold weather eliminates other insect problems, lice on cattle start to rapidly reproduce. It is important to control lice in the winter before the infestations have caused serious damage.
If you observe your cattle scratching themselves and rubbing against fences or feed bunks - they may be infested with lice. Later on, they will start looking rough and patches of skin may begin showing.
If left unchecked highest louse populations will occur in late winter, coinciding with both acute and cumulative winter stress and at a time when vitamin A is often deficient in cattle’s diets. Lousy cattle are much less able to cope with these other stresses.
Lice spend their entire life cycle on host animals. Eggs are attached to the hair, and the young resemble the adults, except they are smaller. Development from egg to adult requires from 3 to 6 weeks but most commonly is in the 23 to 30-day range for all cattle louse species.
Lice are spread from one animal to another through contact. Lice can commonly be found on the head and neck of day-old calves, the lice having transferred from the cows to the calves as they nursed. Therefore, it is important to achieve louse control on brood cows prior to calving.
There are some animals in most herds that seem to harbor infestations the year around. Such “carrier” animals include cows and steers but frequently include the bulls. It is, therefore, important to rid the bulls of lice, although you should select insecticides carefully because some labels bear warnings against treating certain breeds or bulls of any breed.
There are several methods that can be used in controlling lice on beef cattle. Routine use of self-dusters in cattle pens will keep louse populations from being extreme. However, they will seldom provide over 70-80 percent control. There are numerous pour-ons, spot-ons, sprays, dips, and injections available for lice control. In cold weather, sprays and dips that require soaking the animal are probably not your best choice.
Do not use products, at this time of year, that control cattle grubs as well as lice. In Kansas cattle, October through January, are the usual times when it is dangerous to control cattle grubs. During this period the grubs are in critical tissues such as the gullet linings or the spinal canal. Cattle can choke or go into shock if grubs are controlled when they are in these critical tissues.
Some insecticides have little effect on louse eggs and may require the cattle to be treated again in 2 to 3 weeks to insure good control. As always, be sure to read and follow all product labels carefully.
Even moderate louse numbers can cause calves and feeders to grow more slowly and require more feed per pound of gain. Louse-infested cows produce less milk for their calves. Cattle damage fences and bruise or scrape themselves as they rub to relieve the itching caused by the lice on their bodies. Blood loss from sucking lice is sometimes severe enough to cause anemia.
Page 2 of 2 - Don’t underestimate the economics of lice control. Cattle lice are small but they reduce financial returns of nearly every cattle enterprise.
For more information feel free to contact Wildcat Extension District agent Scott Gordon in Independence by call ing (620) 331- 2690 or by email at email@example.com . You may also contact Keith Martin in Altamont - (620) 784-5337, firstname.lastname@example.org ; or Josh Coltrain in Girard - 620-724-8233, email@example.com . We also offer programs in Family Consumer Science, 4-H and Youth, and horticulture. Program information and additional contacts can be found on our website www.wildcatdistrict.ksu.edu.