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Lice – The Quiet Thief

By Dr. Paul Dettloff

Added April 3, 2013. Some things never change. I get the same scenario every winter, starting about in December, depending on when fall turns into winter.

When farmers in the northern climates lock up their cows, they also lock up the lice that have been spending their summers in their cow’s ears. Lice cannot handle skin temperatures of 106 or higher; they will jump ship. If the skin temperature hits 122-123 degrees, they die. The sun is a louse’s demise.

The first sign of lice is licking

The bovine hair is longer in the winter and where they can’t lick, like on their neck, they will rub. The lice go from animal to animal by direct contact. They may drop off in the bedding and crawl on a new host, but most of the time they live on the host.

The vast majority of lice are sucking lice - they feed on blood. They will burrow their head into the skin and have their butts sticking up and are very visible. I’m always surprised that when I show a farmer how to check for lice, they are easier to see on white or light colored skin. Their favorite spot seems to be along the neck area and then the shoulders and back get covered. Just pick up some loose neck skin and roll it in your fingers and they will be seen.

Some animals will literally have thousands of lice on them. The lice are sucking blood (protein) every day. The first thing the animal will experience is anemia, then they will appear pot bellied and have retarded growth. But the animal will lick, lick, lick. Remember that, as it is a cardinal sign. Quite often, you will see lice on the hair, the moist licked hair.

The louse reproduces by laying her tiny, pearly colored egg and gluing it to a hair shaft, quite close to the skin. If you really look close, you can see them with a light or in direct sun. Each louse lays many, many eggs. They incubate for seven days and Bingo! you have a new crop. When treating, always retreat in seven days.

Treatment Options

The last 3 to 4 years has brought forth a plethora of good lice treatments that will replace Ivomec. Granted, they are more labor intensive, as Ivomec is expensive but easy to administer. Check with your certifier as there is discussion that Ivomec may not be allowed in the future and may even be prohibited by the time you read this article.

Let’s try and be a little purist on this issue. Essential oil combinations in sprays or rubs, work very well, but you have to get it down on the louse. You can’t just spray the hair matt on top when the louse is buried in the skin. Some new powders that feature Neem Bark, garlic and ginger root work well also. This too, has to be applied properly.

Stay away from a DE Diatomaceous powder type products as they act like asbestos in the lungs. If you do, make sure to wear a dust mask.

The Organic Industry has come a long way on lice treatments. Lice is still a problem that, very often, is missed. Don’t overlook lice.

Dr Paul Dettloff has a large animal practice in Aracadia, Wisconsin, and has worked with CROPP Cooperative (Organic Valley) as a consulting veterinarian since 2002. He is the author of a popular book titled ‘Alternative Treatments for Ruminants Animals’ and has his own product line of Dr Paul’s Health products for livestock. You can reach Dr. Paul Dettloff by email at: jmdettloff@hotmail.com or call: (608) 323-3047.

NODPA, 30 Keets Rd, Deerfield, MA 01342 FAX: 866- 554-9483 PHONE: 413 772 0444
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