Cattle farmers and livestock owners must be aware that something could lurk in the grass. An invasive species called the Longhorned tick has been going through the U.S. and recently in Missouri. This tick has already cost millions of dollars to livestock producers worldwide.
With no known cure currently, it could potentially transmit disease and illness to humans.
They originate from areas of Eastern Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding islands in the Pacific Ocean. Longhorned ticks made their way to the U.S. and were first sighted in New Jersey in 2017. Since then, Longhorned ticks have spread through New England and Midwestern areas, officially detected in 19 states in counting.
In April of this year, the Longhorned tick was discovered in Boone County by Rosalie Ierardi, a Missouri University clinical instructor and doctoral student for the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (VMDL) at the M.U. College of Veterinary Medicine, who last year discovered these same long-horned ticks in northern Missouri.
"These Longhorned ticks have the potential to transmit theileriosis, a disease that kills red blood cells in cattle," said Ierardi. "Symptoms of this infection in cattle could include weight loss, tiredness, weakness, jaundice and pregnancy loss, which all have economic consequences for cattle ranchers looking to sell their calves."
"These discoveries help raise awareness for both veterinarians and Missouri livestock producers so that they can monitor the health of animals and make better informed decisions," Ram Raghavan, an associate professor of M.U. and Ierandi's mentor, said.
"A combination of factors, including increasingly warming temperatures for ticks to thrive in and an increase in people engaging in outdoor activities in rural or suburban areas where ticks are more prevalent, have increased the rates of ticks transmitting pathogens to wildlife, people and their pets."
While most ticks reproduce traditionally, female Longhorned ticks can lay thousands of eggs asexually or without a male's help, making it easier for this species to establish in new areas quickly.
Raghavan has been tracking the spread of many tick species in the U.S. for 16 years. In a 2019 study, Raghavan predicted the potential geographic distribution of the long-horned tick. So far, his predictions have turned into reality.
"The University of Missouri is a land-grant institution, and we remain committed to assisting Missouri veterinarians and Missouri cattle ranchers as they continue to monitor the health of their animals," Raghavan said. "Unfortunately, it appears that these Longhorned ticks are here to stay, and the more vigilant we can become in monitoring the situation as it worsens going forward, the better prepared we will be. We need to monitor these ticks long-term throughout the central Midwest, where critical information about the biology of ticks in general is lacking."
Ierardi and Raghavan encourage Missouri livestock producers who notice weakness, tiredness, jaundice, or pregnancy loss in their cattle to contact their local veterinarian or the MU VMDL for assistance with tracking down the causes of such signs.
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