Experts Warn Valley Ranchers about Lice Infecting Cattle

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NEAR EDCOUCH – A Rio Grande Valley ranch manager is taking a new warning about lice in cattle seriously. He says he is treating his livestock to avoid loss of production.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is warning farmers if lice infect cattle, it would hurt production and raise beef prices for consumers.

The group's experts say the pests are in peak breeding season during the winter.

Edcouch rancher Ramiro Olvera manages the Santa Ana Ranch and its 180 cattle. He says his job is good for his soul.

"Very quiet, the ranch is the best. It’s more easy, very slow," he says.

Olvera says he’s paying close attention to pests around his ranch and doing what he can to keep lice from infecting his cattle.

"That's why we needed to continue checking the cattle, so they don't have ticks and lice. We're fumigating," notes Olvera.

He knows if lice were to infest his cattle, they would cause infections and drop his ranch's production.

"If we have animals like that, we can't sell them," he adds.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension expert on cattle Rogelio Mercado says cattle producers such as Olvera must regularly monitor their cattle for lice this time of year. The pest can slow production dramatically.

He said cattle naturally grow longer hair in winter months, making them a prime breeding ground for lice.

Mercado says there are two types of these pests producers should look out for.

"One that basically bites and creates an itch, and infection and discomfort,” he explains. “There's a lice that then sucks blood from the cattle.”

Mercado says one sign a cow is infected with lice is if they are rubbing against trees to alleviate the itch. He says, if untreated and unnoticed, the lice can cause a lack of appetite in cattle and even lead to anemia.

"They're affecting the circulation and the performance by affecting the blood circulation of the cattle," says Mercado.

The expert adds cattle producers should use pour-on insecticides once or twice a season to keep lice away from their animals.

Mercado advises to immediately re-treat it with the insecticide if a cow is showing signs it has been infected by lice. He says, after that, you should re-treat the other cattle on the ranch as well.

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