Itchy cattle aren’t happy or healthy


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As spring approaches, many cattle have increasing numbers of lice on them according to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

There are blood sucking and chewing or biting lice. Each of these types can cause irritation and poor animal performance. Extreme infestations can result in anemia and even in rare cases, abortions.


The most observed symptom of having lice is the animal rubs on fences, buildings, trees, feed bunks and anything that will give them temporary relief from the itching.

“Long, winter haircoats provide protection for the lice and likely add to the cattle’s discomfort as the weather warms up,” said Cole.

It is even helpful to get some of the cattle into a chute and check them closely for lice to confirm their presence.

“This helps you decide which treatment method is best for the type of louse present on the cattle,” said Cole.

For instance, the chewing louse is not controlled by injectable products. The common areas to examine are the neck, withers, tailhead and around the face and eyes.


Most cattlemen use a number of louse-control products on their cattle in the fall. By February, however, those products have lost their effectiveness.

This usually happens if only one treatment was done in the fall and the louse eggs hatch and reinfest the cattle.

“There are a number of effective insecticides that can be applied now. They include injectables, pour-ons, dusts, back rubs or even sprays when the weather is suitable,” said Cole.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.