Publications

Interactive effects of biological, human and environmental factors on tick loads in Boran cattle in tropical drylands

Chepkwony, Richard; Bommel, Severine van; Langevelde, Frank van

Summary

Background: Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are a serious threat to humans, wildlife and livestock, and cause severe economic losses in many tropical drylands. The effective control of TBDs has been constrained by limited understanding of what determines tick loads in animals. We tested interactive effects of several biological factors (sex, age and body condition), one environmental factor (rainfall) and one human factor (management type) on tick loads in animals. Methods: We collected ticks on animals at four sampling sites in the semi-arid savanna area of Laikipia County, Kenya, of which two are commercial ranches and the other two are open pastoral grazing areas. From 2017 to 2019, we collected a total of 2038 ticks from 619 domestic animals from various cattle and camel herds and from 79 tranquilised wild animals. Results: Generally, wild herbivores (zebras, rhinos and elephants) had higher tick loads than domestic animals. As 83% of the tick samples were taken from Boran cattle, we analysed tick load in these cattle in more detail. Boran cattle had high tick loads in the wet season, especially those animals in poor condition. No differences were found between female and male cattle, regardless of season. The calves had high tick loads during both the wet and dry seasons, whereas the sub-adult and adult cattle had less ticks during the dry season. Cattle on the intensively managed ranches had lower tick load than those in the transhumant management system. Conclusion: These findings highlight the importance of establishing effective control of ticks on domestic animals in transhumant management systems as tick loads were high on these animals in both the wet and dry season. Graphic abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].