New Year – Old Pest

Writer: Joe C. Paschal, Livestock Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 361-265-9203,

As we begin a new year we are faced with an old pest, the fever tick. The fever tick (actually there are two different species) once ranged as far north as Virginia and is the host for the blood parasite that causes Cattle or Tick Fever. This disease can kill as many as 90% of the affected cattle.

Beginning in 1906, the USDA Fever Tick Eradication Program eliminated fever ticks down to a 500 mile stretch of Texas along the Rio Grande. This line runs from Del Rio to the Gulf of Mexico and is known as the Permanent Quarantine Zone. Inside the Zone, actually a buffer between the US and Mexico (which has both the ticks and the disease), fever ticks are often found since the river is not a perfect barrier. Wildlife and stray cattle from Mexico can bring ticks across. Tick riders patrol this Zone on horseback to look for cattle with ticks.

Outside the Zone, the fever tick is not usually found unless it is carried by wildlife or in a special case, by an exotic antelope, the Nilgai. Cattle and other livestock inside the Zone must be treated for ticks with an insecticide and inspected before leaving.

Recently fever ticks (but not the disease) were found in Live Oak County requiring a Control Purpose Quarantine Zone to be established by the Texas Animal Health Commission, the state regulatory agency responsible for animal health. TAHC is inspecting and treating affected herds to reduce the economic impact on producers. Cattle producers have their choice of two treatment options or their pastures can be vacated for 6-9 months to starve the tick.

For more information on fever ticks or cattle ticks contact Texas Animal Health Commission, your local county Extension agent or beef cattle veterinarian.

A review of the current status of the fever tick outbreak in South Texas.

For more information:

Texas Animal Health Commission

TAHC Fever Tick Brochure

TAHC Fever Tick Brochure (en Español)

TAHC Frequently Asked Questions

APHIS Fever Tick Fact Sheet


For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at or (979) 845-1542.

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