More Options Made Available in Texas to Control Cattle Fever Ticks

A Cattle Fever Tick spray box in action in South Texas.
( Texas Animal Health Commission )

Texas cattle producers will now have more options to help control the spread of Cattle Fever Ticks with an addition hand-held sprayers. The temporary rule change was announced by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller following a meeting in meeting in Washington, D.C. with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Under Secretary Greg Ibach where they discussed issues revolving around the use of spray boxes.

“I want to thank Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Under Secretary Ibach for our discussions in D.C.,” Miller says, “and I look forward to working with them to find a more permanent solution to this issue. Their agreement to allow Texas producers the option to hand-spray gives them the ability to manage their livestock as they see fit while still ensuring we maintain the fight against any tick outbreaks.”

In late-July, Miller made the controversial choice to halt the use of 15 spray boxes in South Texas that are used to spray insecticide on cattle after reports of cattle deaths related to the boxes. Miller’s decision was met with outcry from beef industry stakeholders including Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). After 11 days, Miller temporarily reopened the use of the spray boxes with a deadline of Sept. 24 for the boxes to be fixed.

Some ranchers have claimed that cattle have died after going through the boxes to be sprayed with Co-Ral (also known as Coumaphos). Miller has supported those claims while TSCRA and TAHC have pushed back saying there were no indications of cattle deaths from the boxes.

“I also appreciate our friends in the Texas cattle industry and what they do to help feed the world,” Miller says. “I sincerely hope that together we can find a solution that will protect Texas cattle, serve the public interest and strengthen the position of the Texas beef industry as a world leader.”

After receiving input from members of the beef industry, Miller directed the agency to propose a new ventilation rule for the spray boxes on Sept. 21.

A comment period has been opened up and will continue until Nov. 30. During that time producers will have the option to use either hand-held spraying or the spray boxes to control Cattle Fever Ticks.

Comments will be reviewed in December and no changes are expected to happen with the spray box policy or the use of Co-Ral until early in 2019.

“I am allowing the Cattle Fever Tick spray boxes to continue operations while we continue to work on a long term solution,” Miller says. “I am hopeful that comments from producers will continue to shed light on the use of these boxes and provide valuable guidance.”

Cattle Fever Ticks are a pest that carries the deadly disease bovine babesiosis. The disease causes the destruction of the red blood cells resulting in cattle anemia, fever and death.

Research has showed that dipping or spraying cattle for fever ticks is an effective way to stop their spread. A Texas A&M University study found that the spread of small fever tick outbreak outside of the quarantine zone in Texas would result in $123 million economic loss in the first year. Should the ticks spread to their historic range it could result in a minimum cost of $1.2 billion in the first year.

Currently, there are nine South Texas counties with fever tick quarantines. The counties include Cameron, Live Oak, Hidalgo, Kinney, Maverick, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata.

map showing the fever tick zone can be seen below:

Tick Map

More information about Cattle Fever Ticks and spray boxes can be found below: