The sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) is the most common tick affecting UK sheep and while large numbers may cause harm in terms of blood loss, the transmission of disease presents a greater risk. The nymphs hatching from eggs are free from disease but after feeding on hosts, may be exposed to pathogens, which can then be passed on to subsequent hosts.

Ticks may be found in any vegetation but tend to thrive in dense vegetation meaning rough grazing and hill ground present an increased risk. Tick prevalence is increasing due to changes in habitat management favouring dense vegetation, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns extending the tick season and reduced dipping after it was no longer compulsory.

Tick borne diseases:

Louping Ill– caused by a virus and resulting in primarily neurological signs. Affected animals may have a fever, abnormal gait, seizures and paralysis. In naïve flocks, death rates as high as 60% may be observed.

Tick Pyaemia– caused by bacteria introduced under the skin when the tick attaches. Can lead to bacterial sepsis, joint ill and surviving animals will likely perform poorly.

Tick borne fever- caused by the bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum and supresses the immune system. This leaves the animal susceptible to other diseases such as Louping Ill and pneumonia.

Controlling ticks:

Tick control products as detailed in the table below are available:

Active ingredientWithdrawal period
Cypermethrin8 days
Alpha-cypermethrin49 days
Deltamethrin35 days
Diazinon49 days

Adult ticks will normally attach and feed for anywhere between 7 and 12 days before dropping off. Pharmaceutical products cannot prevent ticks from crawling onto hosts and they may still be able to attach but preventative products significantly reduce the amount of time on the host and reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Where tick borne diseases are present, work with your vet and SQP to formulate control plans, particularly to ensure good immune transfer via colostrum.

To discuss which tick control product is most suited for your flock and management system speak to one of our qualified animal health advisors (RAMA).

This content is provided by Downland, retailers of Vectocert 1.25 % w/v Pour-on Solution for Sheep.

Vectocert® 1.25% w/v pour on solution for sheep, contains cypermetherin, POM-VPS. May be prescribed by any Registered Qualified Person (RQP – a veterinarian, a pharmacist or an appropriately qualified RAMA). For further information see the SPC, for advice farmers should contact their animal medicines supplier RAMA, veterinary surgeon or Downland Marketing Ltd, Warwick Mill, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle CA4 8RR. Use medicines responsibly: