Cattle producers combat lice infestation

Many cattle ranchers are experiencing lice infestation within their herds.

Figuring out if a producer's herd has a lice issue is an easy task if the producer completes a proper evaluation of the animal. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

Many farmers and ranchers experience lice infestation in their cattle herds in the winter months. However, due to the region’s mild winter, some ranchers are still battling the pests, even though they have treated their cattle.

“We are experiencing lice populations that are apparently much more difficult to control than previously,” said Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian. “We cannot be sure as to the reason for reduced lice control, but the possibility of resistance to our control products is certainly on the minds of our veterinary practitioners.”

Determining if your herd is struggling with a lice issue is a easy pretty task for veterinarians as well as producers. One common sign of lice infestation is the cattle appearing to have itchy skin and attempt to itch themselves more often than they normally would.

Another sign of a lice issue is hair loss, specifically in the neck, across the shoulders and withers and in the udder area. Farmers and ranchers should pay attention to this loss of hair, as it may result in frostbite if the animal is outside weathering the cold for an extended period of time.

It is important to keep in mind that a light infestation may be easy to overlook when examining your cattle, unless a careful and proper inspection is done on each animal. Producers should look for nits, as well as looking for lice by parting the animal’s hair.


“A systematic and defined approach to the examination of cattle for the presence of lice will enable the examiner to have a higher level of confidence in obtaining accurate results,” Stokka said.

When trying to control and treat the lice, producers can use Ivermectin and Dectomax. Both products are well noted for their effectiveness. These pour on products can be used multiple times a year to help combat lice infestation.

“When looking at topical treatments to treat biting lice, it may be in your best interest to look for name-brand products, and to use one with a higher volume dosage. Biting lice will be controlled more effectively by the parasiticide if they come in contact with it. Thus, the higher-dosage products will give you more coverage on the animal and more area for the lice to come in contact with the product,” Stokka said.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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