Vaccine combats cattle fever ticks

HARLINGEN — The war against cattle fever ticks in South Texas just escalated.

It appears a new vaccine developed by federal scientists in Kerrville may significantly reduce cattle fever ticks in South Texas, officials say.

Australia and Cuba have developed vaccines against the tick in South Texas, Rhipicephalus microplus. But the federally-approved vaccine created at the Agricultural Research Service’s Tick and Biting Fly Research Unit attacks r. microplus ticks in a unique way.

Cattle fever has been a devastating disease for ranchers in tropical and subtropical regions since the 1800s. The tick that transmits cattle fever in South Texas, r. microplus, originated in Southeast Asia and spread globally on transported cattle.

In cattle, tick fever can cause substantial weight loss and leave recovering animals in a weak or reduced condition. It can occasionally be fatal.

The top commodity among Texas agricultural products is beef cattle, which earns state ranchers some $11 billion annually. Protecting that beef cattle franchise — which also ranks No. 1 in the nation — is a major issue for Texas agriculture officials.

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