VCA seeks help in fighting Asian Longhorned Tick
DALEVILLE, Va. — The Virginia Cattlemen’s Association is working to draw attention to the Asian longhorned tick, a new species that is a threat to the cattle industry, in the Southeast and especially Virginia.
Margaret Ann Smith, a Rockbridge cattle farmer and member of both the VCA policy board and the National Cattle Beef Association’s policy board, said Virginia has the highest number of the identified tick infestations in the country.
She drafted a resolution that NCBA adopted in its winter business meeting to seek help from USDA. The action allows cattlemen to advocate for action to battle the dangerous pest.
Brandon Reeves, VCA executive director, reported the resolution from VCA and NCBA directs USDA to provide resources and funding to research the tick and its associated cattle diseases.
“Large numbers of the Asian longhorned tick, on cattle can reduce herd health and possibly spread disease,” the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology reports. “Managing the ALT can be very difficult because the tick spends most of its life on the ground off the host.”
Smith said in a telephone interview that the national group will be adding the request to its policy book and presenting it to the federal agency. She noted that USDA has to have a request for action.
ALT is a native of Asia and the Pacific Islands, Smith reported, saying it has also been found in Australia and New Zealand.
It is unique in several ways that pose a threat not only to cattle and to other species.
Most ticks seek only one host but this one will suck blood from humans, cattle, domestic and wild animals, she indicated. The first known in the United States was on a possum in New Jersey, Smith said.
Smith stressed that the tick can reduce production, cause abortions and even cause death. She said it can cut production in dairy cattle by 25 percent. Virginia Cooperative Extension offers information on managing the tick and providing best management practices for cattle producers.
According to Virginia Tech entomologists, the ALT reproduces without mating. Smith reported that one of these insects can lay from 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at one time.
The management information prepared by Theresa A. Dellinger, diagnostician, and Eric Day, lab manager at the Virginia Tech Insect Identification Lab, lists several things to look for in cattle herds.
• Regularly inspect cattle for ticks. The ALT is small and may go unnoticed with only a quick look. Focus on the head and the neck, but also check the flanks and back, the armpits and groin, and under the tail. Tick larvae, nymphs, and adults may all be found at the same time on a single animal.
• Cattle with low weight gain, that are lethargic or anemic, have patchy hair or generally look unthrifty should always be inspected for ticks.
• Animals may have large numbers of ALT, but only a few ALTS may be sufficient to transmit cattle disease. Submit tick samples to your local extension agent for species confirmation.
• Once ALT is confirmed on your animals, you should assume it is established in the area and that management for this tick will be an on-going process from now on.
Smith said one Rockbridge farm that drew blood from its herd this winter and had it tested found that 10 percent of the cattle were infected. None had symptoms.
VCE has developed guidelines for chemical control of the ALT and herd management practices to help combat it. Guidance is available from local Extension offices. For on-line information go to Virginia Cooperative Extension: ext.vt.edu.