Monday, February 09, 2009

Battling an old enemy - fever tick

The Monitor reports:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's first customer on a Friday afternoon is a golden-brown Beefmaster bull. As he stands for inspection in the pen behind R.Y. Livestock Sales in Rio Grande City, two USDA specialists run practiced hands over his sides, looking for a disease-bearing tick that can grow to the size of a ripe blueberry. Satisfied, they urge the reluctant animal into a stinking, mud-brown bath; he steps uneasily down the stairs of the concrete basin and enters with a pungent splash. The unpleasant swim is a precautionary investment for the animal's new owner, Manuel Izaguirre Jr. A tick infestation on his Circle I Ranch could spell disaster for the small business. With the price of beef low and some big buyers wary of taking on cattle from areas under quarantine for disease-carrying pests, some South Texas cattle ranchers say their business is suffering and under-supported. And on the small, family-owned ranches that dot the region, more part-time cowboys are choosing to hang up their spurs rather than fight an old, costly enemy. For the few dozen ranchers Hidalgo, Starr, Brooks and Zapata counties whose pastures are designated "infected," the dip is a ritual repeated once every two weeks for nine months to rid their animals — and their land — of the Boophilus annulatus, or fever tick, a Central American pest that can carry a vicious bovine disease...

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