August 6, 2014

Dealing with Ticks on Livestock

Warning: graphic pictures of icky ticks are included in this post.

The first time I ever saw a tick on a dog I had no idea what it was. Our old girl had a funny bump on her nose, and that bump grew over the course of several days. I was so worried about this "growth" that I took her to the vet, where they removed the tick, educated me, and sold me a bottle of very nasty-smelling liquid to bathe her with. To give them credit, they didn't laugh at me, at least not until after I left the office.

After that we were tick-free for many years until we moved to Oklahoma. We live waaay out in the country, with tall vegetation, and are surrounded by woods. One day, shortly after moving here, we found a tick on one of our barn cats. I removed it so very carefully with tweezers and applied alcohol to the bite while our daughter held the cat. As that summer went on, I had to deal with ticks nearly every day. Now, ten years later, I just pull them off with my fingernails and dunk them in water to drown them (the little ones) or step on them (the big ones make a very satisfying POP when stepped on). Ticks disgust me, but they have to be dealt with and I usually don't have time to be fussy about it or to find the tweezers.

The barn cats rarely have ticks anymore - I think it's because the horses have the run of the barnyard and keep the grass low - but our wandering dog Cracker, oh my. I give him the "once over" every day and he loves the attention. I don't find a tick on him every day, but sometimes I find half a dozen. Even the little ones are easy to feel in his short plush coat. And how about this big fat one:


My goats rarely have ticks; I've found less than a dozen in ten years. Occasionally I'll find one on a horse, but not often. If I do find one, it's usually right behind a front leg, along their jaw or under the forelock. I pull those off and stomp on them with my boot.




In this last photo the engorged tick is upside-down. It's easy to see where the term "fat as a tick" came from. Those little legs were waving in the air. If it weren't so icky, it would have been comical.

The CDC lists 14 diseases that can be transmitted by ticks to animals and humans alike. We lost Cracker's predecessor to tick fever. The diseases ticks carry have changed some peoples' lives dramatically, so they aren't something to mess around with. In June 2014 Oklahoma reported its first case of and first death from the Heartland Virus, a new tick-borne disease in the state. Fortunately, the CDC says a tick usually has to be embedded for at least 36-48 hours to infect a human.


Chickens and guineas are the most natural tick prevention. Free-range poultry hunt and eat bugs of all kinds, including fleas and ticks. Our guineas were very helpful, but the flock dwindled over the course of a year until they were all gone, and likewise I cannot allow my chickens to free-range. We just have too many predators. If you live in a kinder neighborhood, this might be the best and only prevention you need.

Planting flea and tick-repellent plants in your yard might help keep the ticks down as well. Lavender, lemongrass, sage, catnip and other mints are supposed to be effective. Keep the grass mowed short during tick season as well.

We bought a tub of garlic pellets intended to be fed to the horses with their grain daily, to repel ticks, flies, and mosquitoes. The horses refused to eat their garlic-laced feed, so that was a fail. (I probably should have started with a small amount and worked up to the recommended daily dose.)

Preventic® tick collars are effective for dogs, but Cracker loses them regularly so I can't depend on them. Science Daily recently wrote that scientists in New Jersey are reporting "discovery and successful tests of the first once-a-month pill for controlling both fleas and ticks in domestic dogs and cats." I strive to live as organically as possible, but I'll be watching for updates on this product.

My current defense against ticks is diatomaceous earth, rubbed into the animal's coat. Be sure to use food grade DE, not pool grade, and avoid breathing in the powder because it's hard on your lungs. DE works by piercing the exoskeleton of insects so that they dry out and die. Putting DE in a shaker jar makes it easy to sprinkle on the animal. Years ago I used Hi Yield livestock powder in the same way.

My thanks go to my dog Cracker for standing still (sort of) while I took that picture and then pulled the tick off his face, and to Sissy for finding the engorged one on the floor IN THE HOUSE so I could photograph it. I know, those photos creep me out too.

Do you live in an area where ticks are prevalent? Do you have problems with ticks on your livestock? How do you prevent tick bites?



Related websites:
Controlling external parasites on the organic farm
Whole Fed Homestead - tips on natural tick prevention.
An illustrated guide to tick removal
How to Remove a Tick




This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.

~~~~~

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20 comments:

  1. Kathi...I used the new flea/tick pill on Mattie who has a serious flea allergy and so far so good. Not cheap but it appears to be working.

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  2. Thank you, Michelle. I'm glad to hear that it's working for Mattie, at least so far. I think that's what I'm going to have to do for Cracker, the outside dog.

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  3. We don't have too much of a problem since the chickens free range...another good reason to free range birds!

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  4. Free range chickens are a boon, if you live in a place where it's possible. Ticks, fleas, grasshoppers... and more... gone!

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  5. Anonymous10:04 PM

    We haven't had a problem with ticks in the past few years...we have fire ants and I have heard that the fire ants kill the ticks. Don't know if this is true or not but we sure don't have the problem we used to have, but who wants fire ants! Pat B.

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  6. Pat, I'm sorry you have fire ants. That's kind of a toss-up, isn't it: which is worse, fire ants or ticks?

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  7. Anonymous8:09 AM

    Be careful with this new tick/flea pill. It killed my son's much loved dog. The vet done all he could but in the end kidney failure got him. I'm not scared of much. I'm a 62 year old woman who runs a saw in a flooring mill everyday. Ticks scare the bejabbers out of me. I have been fighting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (a tick bite illness) for 5 years now. It never goes away. My younger son had Lyme disease. We have no ticks in the yard or around the barns, thanks to free range poultry, but step out the gate to the field or timber and you will get them. I wish I knew the answer to the tick problem. We had such high hopes for this new pill. Kathy in the beautiful (tick filled) Ozarks

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  8. Oh Kathy, I'm so sorry to hear about your son's dog. It seems there just isn't a perfect answer to this - the diseases ticks carry are so dangerous, and yet the preventions are also dangerous.

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  9. Oh Kathy, I'm so sorry to hear about your son's dog. It seems there just isn't a perfect answer to this - the diseases ticks carry are so dangerous, and yet the preventions are also dangerous.

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  10. Disgusting little things, juck! I used to live in a place where they were very numerous. Every time l walked the dog l could pick as many as 25 loose ones off his head after poking through bushes. The south of Norway is bad as far as ticks go and the main problem is borrelia. Two relatives have been treated for borrelia infections and one didn't discover the tick early enough and is still struggeling with health issues ten years later. We now live further inland and higher up. Ticks are fewer, much fewer luckily, but we still have to deal with them every week. I just pick them off. The small ones l pop with a pencil, the larger, like you say - stamp on them. Pam

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  11. Read the above comments and l must say l am careful with using tick repellents too. The one they use here made certain animals terribly sick, my friend almost lost her dog. Pam

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  12. Pam, I'm sorry that the ticks were so bad in your former home! Ick! Stay safe out there, please.

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  13. Anonymous2:06 PM

    We used a few drops of Rose Geranium essential oil on our dog when we headed to the mountains this summer. He never had a single tick on him, and they were bad this year.

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  14. Wow, another great use for DE! Thank you for posting on this week's Maple Hill Hop!

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  15. I've been very cautious of using essential oils on the dogs, I know some are very bad for them. Now that I know about this one, I can research it. Thank you for the info!

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  16. Another way to remove ticks depending on the length of the hair is using a lit match or use a kitchen match. You light it then blow it out, touch the critter while it's still hot and it should let go. This way you don't pull the head off with it still stuck in the "suck" mode in your animal. Hope this helps. I suppose using that food grade whatchamacallit probably works better but, this will work in a pinch.

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  17. Thank you, Carroll, that's a good tip. The more ways we can fight these things, the better.

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  18. I had no idea there were plants that repelled ticks! Fascinating. You always teach me something. So glad you are a part of The Maple Hill Hop each week!

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  19. The things I learn! I had no idea that plant repel ticks, either. Thanks, too, for the info about diseases.

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  20. Thank you, Betty. I'm glad it was helpful.

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