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article imageTicks pose a risk to sheep populations

By Tim Sandle     Nov 16, 2013 in Environment
Tick bites are responsible for a high death rate in sheep, according to a new study. Researchers have called for new measures to be taken to reduce the incidence of ticks.
The study estimates that, in some lamb herds, a mortality rate of 30 percent has been recorded due to tick bites. This is in keeping with studies which indicate a significant rise in tick borne diseases (including Lyme disease).
The reason for this is that many ticks cause the disease tick-borne fever (TBF). TBF is caused by bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. TBF causes high fever and weakens the immune system. This can also lead to conditions like arthritis occurring in the animals.
To show the risks caused by ticks and associated diseases, a research team in Norway fitted radio transmitters to monitor the sheep over the course of several months. One finding was that, while tick diseases are high, some lambs experience a shorter period of fever and a shorter period with poor immune system after an infection than others. This suggests that some sheep are more genetically prone to the disease that others. This suggests that selective breeding might be one answer to the problem.
The findings have been published by the Bioforsk - Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research.
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