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Tick burden in Bos taurus cattle and its relationship with heat stress in three agroecological zones in the tropics of Colombia

Rocha, Juan Felipe, Martínez, Rodrigo, López-Villalobos, Nicolas, Morris, Steve Todd
Parasites & vectors 2019 v.12 no.1 pp. 73
Romosinuano, agroecological zones, beef cattle, body weight, cattle production, environmental factors, genetic resistance, heat stress, humidity, infectious diseases, production technology, risk, temperature, ticks, tropics, Caribbean, Colombia
BACKGROUND: Ticks have a negative effect on dairy and beef cattle production systems around the world, with the concomitant risk they represent for the transmission of some important infectious diseases. Colombian cattle breeds are distributed across different agroecological regions and are exposed to different environmental challenges. In humid and warmer climates such as those from the tropics, tick burden and heat stress are important factors that can compromise livestock performance. The aim of this study was to characterize tick burden in four Colombian cattle breeds and evaluate the relationship between heat stress and tick burden in Bos taurus cattle under tropical conditions. Tick counting was conducted in 1332 cattle from Romosinuano (ROMO), Costeño con Cuernos (CCC), San Martinero (SM) and Blanco Orejinegro (BON) breeds, located in the Caribbean, Orinoquia and Andean regions. Vital signs and environmental variables were taken to calculate an adaptability index (AI) and a temperature humidity index (THI). An AI < 2 indicates maximum adaptability while an AI ≥ 2 indicates a state of lower adaptability. In beef cattle, productivity starts to be affected by heat stress when environmental conditions allow an estimation of a THI > 75. RESULTS: Results showed a differing distribution of ticks on the body of individuals that varied according to the agroecological region. There was a significant effect of breed, sex, family, age and live weight on cattle tick burden. The lowest tick burden was observed in the ROMO breed (12.8 ± 2.6), while the highest tick burden was observed in CCC (31.8 ± 2.3), which were located in the same agroecological region. SM and ROMO animals with an AI > 2 had a higher tick burden than their counterparts that had an AI < 2. CONCLUSIONS: Cattle breed, sex, age and live weight affect the tick burden in Bos taurus Colombian cattle breeds. The tick burden is higher in cattle with lower adaptability to heat stress. Moreover, it decreases as heat stress levels increase in a tropical environment. The interaction between tick burden and environmental heat stress can be affected by characteristics of the agroecological region itself, the breed and the genetic resistance of the individual tick, as well as the thermal adaptability of cattle.