If you mention fever ticks to a Texas beef producer, chances are he knows what you’re talking about. But animal health activists say a reduction in outbreaks in recent years has made the risks posed by the ticks seem less dangerous and threatening.
But Texas Animal Health Commission Communications and Emergency Management Specialist Thomas Swafford warns that when it comes to fever ticks, not fully understanding the risks involved in an outbreak is a terrible mistake.
Cattle fever ticks, carriers of a blood disease that once nearly wiped out the U.S. cattle herd, has landed farther north in the Texas interior in recent months, violating a permanent tick quarantine zone established by USDA and causing the establishment of a host of temporary quarantine zones that currently affect over 500,000 acres of Texas ranch country, worrying state and federal inspectors that the disease may be putting the state’s cattle industry at risk once again.
The ticks are believed to be slipping through 500 miles of the permanent quarantine zone, which runs up the Texas-Mexico border from Brownsville through the rugged border country to a point just north of Del Rio. The zone varies in width from 1 to 12 miles, an area where USDA and TAHC tick riders constantly patrol the zone in search of stray cattle and equine that have wandered across the Rio Grande from Mexico, inspecting animals as they are found. Inspectors are also on watch for the movement of wildlife that may be carrying the ticks farther north across the border and on to South Texas ranches.