What to look for

  • Skin irritation - animals rubbing against trees or fence posts
  • Patches of bare skin where hair is rubbed off

Cause - sucking or biting lice

Several different types of lice occur in Australia and range from 1-5mm in length. Lice spend nearly all their time on the skin of their host species and can only survive away from their host for a short period. Lice reach their highest numbers in winter. High temperatures in summer cause a rapid decline in numbers. Self grooming can reduce lice numbers, so more lice are found in body areas that are difficult for a cow to reach with her tongue e.g. the neck.

Animals likely to be affected

All ages of animals are susceptible but young, poorly fed animals are likely to be the most heavily infested. Lice are more visible in white areas of the coat.

Risk factors

  •  Young stock
  • Poor nutrition
  • Underlying disease

Spread of the disease

Close animal-to-animal contact with other cattle. Cattle lice do not infest other animals.

Risks to people



Insecticides - pour-on, injection, ear tag or sprays. Treatment will improve animal comfort and appearance and help reduce hide damage.


Prevention of lice build-up is most effectively achieved by maintaining animals in good condition and by strategic treatment in autumn or early winter. It may be necessary to treat twice to prevent reinfestation from lice eggs.

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