Keeping Ticks in Check
Cattle fever is transmitted from bites by a tick, and it can kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle. The disease has been eradicated in the United States, but a quarantine area along the Texas-Mexico border is still being closely monitored.
As part of that effort, ARS discovered that cattle fever ticks also infect white-tailed deer and antelope, which can both enter the quarantine zone and subsequently transport ticks to areas where they will infect U.S. cattle. An outbreak could cost more than $100 million to eradicate.
To reduce the risk, ARS researchers invented a system that kills ticks by treating wild deer with permethrin (an insecticide), which in turn reduces the risk that ticks will bite and infect cattle. Deer are treated with levels of permethrin that are safe for the deer but deadly for ticks. This same technology is now being tested on deer in suburban areas to target ticks that carry Lyme disease.
ARS researchers also assisted in the use and development of two vaccines, each effective in targeting one of the two species of ticks that carry cattle fever. Partners in the project include USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The combination of these technologies is helping protect U.S. cattle against cattle fever and ticks that spread this disease, which supports efforts to maintain and improve livestock health and producer profits.