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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

It’s tick time in the Northern Rivers

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Young calves and small ruminants like sheep, goats are most commonly affected by paralysis ticks.

It’s very traumatic for animals to die from tick poisoning, and also traumatic for those forced to witness their deaths.

North Coast Local Land Services District veterinarians are reminding owners that now is the time of year to be alert for paralysis ticks.

Paralysis ticks are a common cause of sickness and death in cattle, alpacas, sheep and goats, as well as dogs, on the North Coast.  Although found year-round, they are most prevalent in late winter and early spring when adult females are emerging to breed.

Young calves and small ruminants (sheep, goats) are most commonly affected, although adults in poor body condition or with heavy infestations can also succumb to paralysis ticks.

District Veterinarian Jocelyn Todd says initial signs are incoordination or ‘wobbling’ in the hind legs which then progresses towards the head impacting on breathing muscles and the forelimbs.  ‘Often animals are found “down” and unable to stand’, she says.

Ticks are tough to find

Dr Todd says ticks are tough to find and may have dropped off by the time symptoms become obvious, so it is not unusual to be unable to find a tick on an affected animal.

‘Tick paralysis can be treated by private vets using tick anti-toxin, with reasonable success rates if treatment is sought early’.

Prevention of tick paralysis can be difficult due to their short period of attachment to the animal, and a lack of effective chemical products available for use.

Chemical products for control of paralysis ticks in cattle are labour-intensive to apply, and most have minimal residual effect.  There are no products for prevention or treatment in other small ruminants (alpacas, sheep and goats).

Read the label!

Dr Todd says it is important only to use products which are registered for use on external parasites in the target species and ALWAYS read and follow the label. Be sure to obey withholding periods (WHP) and export slaughter intervals (ESI).’

Preventing or reducing infestation is the best form of control. There are steps which stock owners can take to help minimise tick problems, such as.

  • Altering breeding patterns, so that vulnerable young stock are not being born during the time of highest risk (late winter/early spring).
  • Avoid having a dense layer of mulch of dried grass, such as Setaria or blady grass, because it can provide an ideal environment for ticks to survive.

For further information on the prevention and treatment of Paralysis Ticks contact North Coast Local Land Services District Veterinarians on 1300 795 299 or see

NSW DPI Primefact 1372 “Paralysis Ticks and Cattle” https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/beef-cattle/health-and-disease/parasitic-and-protozoal-diseases/ticks/paralysis-ticks

“Beef Cattle Health and Husbandry for the NSW North Coast” https://www.lls.nsw.gov.au/regions/north-coast/articles,-plans-and-publications/beef-cattle-guide



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