Weaning: An ideal time to vaccinate for tick fever

With weaning occurring across Queensland, graziers in ticky country are being encouraged to vaccinate their cattle for tick fever.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries beef extension officer Lara Landsberg said tick fever, which can be caused by three blood parasites, was responsible for many preventable cattle losses each year.

“Losses occur when cattle are moved from tick-free to ticky country, and in unvaccinated cattle in the ticky country,” Ms Landsberg said.

“The parasites infect and destroy red blood cells, resulting in significant mortalities and health problems – including weight loss, reduced bull fertility, lactation issues and pregnancy complications.

Young cattle (3 to 9 months old) have an age-related resistance to the tick fever disease. Therefore, weaning is the ideal time to vaccinate cattle – not only from the animal’s position, but also from a management perspective as they’re already being handled in the yards. Vaccination reactions are also much less likely in young animals.”

Ms Landsberg said it took 60 days for vaccinated cattle to develop immunity to Anaplasma marginale, and 28 days to develop immunity to Babesia bovis and Babesia bigemina.

“Because of the time required to develop immunity, cattle from tick-free areas should be vaccinated 60 days before being moved,” Ms Landsberg said.

“A common practice is to vaccinate weaners the day they are being turned out from the yards. Ideally cattle are not handled and transported during the potential vaccine reaction period, which is between 5 and 60 days post-vaccination.”

“Normally a single dose provides lifetime immunity, but vaccination with two doses may be advisable when moving valuable naïve cattle like bulls to ticky country.”

For more information on ticks or tick management, visit TickBoss or contact your local beef extension officer.