Extension notes is written by K-State Extension of Harvey County extension agents Scott Eckert, Susan Jackson and Ryan Flaming. They focus on horticulture and agriculture.
The Gulf Coast tick, a hard-bodied tick, commonly infests cattle brought in from eastern Oklahoma and states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The species is now established in much of south central and southeastern Kansas, and in those areas our native cattle are sometimes heavily infested with it from late March through June. It is a three-host tick; larvae and nymphs feed on birds or small rodents while adults prefer livestock. Large numbers sometimes cluster in the outer ear of cattle, causing intense soreness. Under severe infestations the muscles of the ears become weakened, resulting in a flop-eared condition commonly referred to as ìgotch ear.î
The spinose ear tick, a soft-bodied species, also inhabits the ears of cattle but only in the larval and nymphal stages. They often attach deep within the ear canal of cattle and other animals (occasionally man). The nymphs are covered with spines which make them difficult to dislodge. They cause intense pain as they puncture the skin within the ear and suck blood. Feeding wounds may become infected causing a condition known as ìear canker.î Adults of this species live on the ground away from the host and do not feed.
Two insecticidal ear tags per animal, containing a pyrethroid, will bring most infestations under control and keep infestations at a low level for several weeks. By mid grazing season when the ear tags lose their potency it might not be a bad idea to put new insecticidal ear tags in your cattle if you have the facilities in the pasture to catch them
More rapid control of established infestations (but less lasting protection where there is danger of reinfestation) can be obtained by individual ear treatment with appropriately labeled insecticides applied into the ear. In addition to the following, various dusts and liquids are packaged in pressurized ready-to use spray cans expressly for cattle ear treatment.