Cattle tick management: Letter to the editor – Denis Conway, Taroom

Beef Central, 22/08/2018

Taroom (Central QLD) cattleman Dennis Conway has written this response to a recent Beef Central article on the impact of new cattle tick treatment arrangements in Queensland, and a subsequent letter to the editor received from Dr Allison Crook, general manager for animal biosecurity with Biosecurity Qld….


IT IS with regret that I write this email in response to the breaking down of the Tick Line. We came to Taroom in 1977 when the Taroom Shire was tick infested. During the 80’s and early 90’s much of the Taroom Shire underwent a very successful tick eradication campaign at a substantial cost which needs to be acknowledged and respected.

There had been very few outbreaks prior to the change of procedures in 2016.

Since the change in legislation, the biggest problem is that there is no buffer zone between clean and infected properties. In most situations there is only a fence between the two, previously properties neighbouring infected properties were under restrictions.

In the past two years we have purchased two lots of cattle, 18 months apart, out of the Toowoomba Sale yards only to be notified two months later that the properties where these cattle originated from had been declared tick infested and therefore we had potentially purchased tick infested cattle.

In both cases, the owners had cattle dying from red water (tick fever) and these fatalities alerted them to the tick infestation, but as we know not all ticks carry the tick fever virus.

Fortunately in the first case we had treated our cattle with Dectomax injection, we then mustered our property and it was inspected clean by a DAFF Stock Inspector.  After this incident we dipped any cattle purchased out of Toowoomba.  In the second case cattle were Dectomaxed, once again we mustered our property and were inspected clean by a DAFF Stock Inspector.  How can we be assured that Toowoomba is a tick free Saleyard?

Roma and Dalby, being Australia’s two largest selling centres, do not have a plunge dip facility and with the present cattle tick clearing requirements we can buy potentially tick infested cattle out of those yards. To my knowledge this has already happened to some producers.

Any property adjoining the tick line or next to a property of a breakdown is considered tick free; this is a huge risk to our industry, surely these properties should be under restrictions.

It is very disappointing that in the Biosecurity Tick Inspection Manual an Accredited Certifier is instructed to inspect both Primary sites (Tail butt and Escutcheon) and must choose only ONE of four secondary sites (flank, dewlap, neck or ears).

Any experienced Inspector will testify that the ears of cattle are responsible for the majority of cattle being found tick infested when the cattle have had multiple preliminary treatments.  The ears are always the hardest area to clean up.  How effective are the injectables and pour-ons to the ears considering the lack of blood flow to this area. The use of pour-on and injectable chemicals are of great concern and are potentially ineffective if not administered accurately.  If clearing cattle with the use of injectables or pour – ons is effective why does it often take two – five dips to get cattle through the clearing dip.

Of great concern since the change in legislation is the ability for on property clearance of stock. On property clearing is hazardous.  Many yards are unsuitable for Inspecting stock efficiently.  There is always the risk of cattle getting boxed and potentially cattle going to the free area that have not been inspected. Dip samples are to be no older than 30 days and it can take up to 3 weeks to get a result.

Low risk carriers such as horses may be a problem. Horses travelling to NSW from Qld Tick Infected Area need to be inspected and sprayed by and Accredited Certifier whereas those travelling to the Tick Free area of Qld enter at the owner’s discretion. It is not possible to see larval ticks on a horse.

It would be very easy to blame the Accredited Certifiers at times but I believe the root of this non -functioning system is how it has been orchestrated. To become an Accredited Certifier involves a three day course in addition to inspecting cattle under supervision until a level of competency is held. With limited qualified DAFF staff available are these Certifiers receiving adequate experience and training? There used to be 15 Stock Inspectors at a quoted cost of $1.9 million per annum, now we have 90 accredited assessors.

We currently have 223,000 public servants in Queensland and not one Stock Inspector on the tick line.  With an industry worth $4.15 billion in Qld and $14 billion nationally, if areas become reinfected what is going to be the cost to the industry? Loss of production, the cost of chemicals, the loss of the southern markets, our time, our neighbours, producers who were once organic now forced to use chemicals and loss in hide value etc

I would like to invite the Minister for Agriculture (The Hon. Mark Furner MP) and yourself, to an on-property meeting and tour to see first-hand the magnitude of the potential problem.


Yours faithfully

Denis Conway, Taroom



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  1. Peter Holland, 23/08/2018

    Denis a very good and non aggressive reply. This should automatically serve notice to Hon. Mr Mark Furner that You will meet Him with the respect deservant of His position. The least costly and more efficient way Bio-Security wise to handle the tick issue is (1) A Buffer zone (2) DAF Stock Inspector for checking for ticks and the monitoring of The movement of Livestock from tick infested areas.

  2. Dr Glenn Anderson, 22/08/2018

    Tick control is complex at the best of times and we now live in a world where there is resistance to every family of chemicals used to control ticks. Macrocyclic lactones/mectins have never been the ideal treatment for clearing the tick line because of their systemic action and the associated lag time for full efficacy, but they have been an important option because until recently, they were still working well even when nothing else (including amitraz, the chemical used in clearance dips) was. It is obvious that in this situation where producers may not get entirely clean cattle despite their best (and entirely appropriate) efforts, systems must be in place to catch infested cattle before they cross the line. It is important to note that even in the days of DPI clearance dips, there were incursions of tick infested cattle west of the line, so no system is going to be perfect. The key question is what system will likely give the best result for all concerned in today’s even more complex environment.

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