WACO, Texas (AP) — A recent decision to ban a tool to treat a deadly tick could put cattle at risk, according to Texas ranchers and several government agencies.
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller last month halted the use of 15 cattle fever tick spray boxes in South Texas for lacking ventilation, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported. The boxes spray livestock with a chemical to eliminate ticks that spread bovine babesiosis. The disease kills 90 percent of the animals it infects, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission.
But Miller said he’s received reports of cattle dying from the boxes’ poorly ventilated units.
Nearly 920 cattle have been exposed to fever ticks in 82 counties since September 2016, the state Animal Health Commission said.
“Portable spray boxes have been utilized for decades and have proven very effective in our containment and eradication efforts,” said commission director Andy Schwartz.
Cattle raisers need a short-term solution to prevent their livestock from contracting the disease, said Gene Hall, Texas Farm Bureau spokesman.
“They need to be spraying right now,” Hall said. “Every day they miss, cattle are being put in jeopardy.”
Austin Brown III, director of the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers, has ranched cattle with his family in Bee County for decades.
“Without tools to control these ticks, we run the risk of their spreading northward,” Brown said. “I’ve never had any trouble with spray boxes, and without their use, I believe there is a threat to local and state herds, even beyond.”
Miller planned to meet this week with representatives of the animal health commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discuss the issue. But representatives failed to show, said agency spokesman Mark Loeffler.
“It’s hard to make a deal with thin air,” Miller wrote. “I’ve got a proposal to get those spray boxes open again, but everyone has to come to the table.”