Producers should be proactive to prevent infestations 

Lice most likely ranks toward the top of the list as one of the most annoying pests that plague cattle herds. It’s tough to miss the signs of the parasites when cattle are constantly rubbing and the barbs on fences are covered with hair. “I had a producer tell me one time that his cattle were about to flatten all his fences trying to rub themselves on them,” Johnny Gunsaulis, county extension agent with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, recalled.

Signs of Infestations 

Lice are a problem in the winter months due to the animal’s winter coat providing a blanket of insulation for the parasites during the cold weather. There are two kinds of lice that cause cattle problems: chewing lice and sucking lice. Chewing lice are the most common. 

 Unlike some parasites, the signs of lice infestation are front and center. Cattle will start having missing hair patches. They will also rub on trees, fences, troughs or anything else they can find. “The lice control is maybe more beneficial to prevent fence damage than it is for animal benefit.,” Gunsaulis added. 

Controlling Lice 

Livestock specialists recommend producers act now to control lice in their herds. “It would most usually be recommended to treat the whole herd if it is suspected that individuals have lice,” Gunsaulis said. Leaving some animals untreated, leaves the window open for re-infestation.

Many pour-on products are available for the treatment of lice. “The permethrin products (there are several trade names that contain this product) will work as well as cyfluthrin (Cylence),” Gunsaulis shared. After the initial application, a second treatment two to three weeks later is recommended. The second application will kill the lice that have hatched after the first application. 

However, there are some precautions to take if the cattle are also battling grubs. “If it is suspected that your cattle may also have grubs, consult your veterinarian before treating for lice this time of year; some complications can occur,” Gunsaulis said. “Ivermectin is effective on lice, but it’s not recommended to use deworming products this time of year to prevent worm resistance from developing.”

Whatever treatment producers decide to use, it’s important to follow the dosage recommendations listed on the product. Follow the dosage guidelines for the size of the animal being treated. When administering a pour-on product, try to spread the dosage in a line all the way down the animal’s back to increase the body surface treated. Many products will provide instructions for the window of re-treatment. If recommended on the product, then make sure to apply a second treatment at the specified time interval. This is essential to preventing re-infestation. 

Though it can be a pain, take heart that as spring arrives with warmer temperatures the problem with lice will also wane. Until then, rest in these thoughts about lice from Gunsaulis, “Lice are one of those things put on earth to keep us from getting too proud of ourselves. Anyone that’s had kids in school knows it just happens — same thing for cattle.”


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