Effective microorganisms for controlling ticks in cattle
Effective Microorganisms for Controlling Ticks in Cattle
Barramansense Faculty, Barru Mansa RJ, Brazil
A study was conducted in 1994 to determine the effect of Effective Microorganisms (EM) on
controlling ticks (Boophilus microplus
Canestrini, 1887) in cattle. Three lots of 15-month old
crossbred animals (five animals per lot) were sprayed six times from October to December with EM
5 using backpack sprayers (Jacto brand) with a 20-liter capacity. At each spraying, individual
animals received three liters of EM 5 solution diluted with water to either 50% or 30%. Within the
first 60 days after EM 5 was applied, there was a significant reduction in the number of engorged
female ticks. In late December, EM 5 at 30% showed effective control of tick populations and a
reduction in costs. At first, the untreated control lot contained medium to high infestations, but
subsequently there was an increase in the population of engorged females, During the entire period
of observation, the control lot showed medium to high infestations. The results of EM 5
applications were comparable to conventional pyrethroid pesticides used to control ticks.
Applications of EM5 solution at 30% (at 15-day intervals) significantly reduced the cost of tick
control compared with two applications of pyrethroid pesticides. EM5 was also effective in
controlling the infestation of botflies (Dermatobia
sp, ). Introduction
The infestation of cattle by ticks (Boophilus microplus
) is a serious problem in Brazil. This
particular pest is the cause of major economic losses in milk and meat production in the State of Rio
de Janeiro. Control measures, based mainly on chemical pesticides, have also had adverse effects on
the environment and human health. Because of these concerns, and the high cost of chemical
control with acaricides, dairymen and ranchers have been unable to invest in animal genetic
improvement programs that might provide some natural resistance to this bloodsucking arachnid.
Consequently, with the introduction of Effective Microorganisms (EM) into Brazil in the early
1990's as a microbial inoculant to enhance soil quality and plant protection, there has been
considerable interest in whether EM could provide a measure of biological control against this pest.
While this was the principal focus of the present investigation, the effect of EM in controlling the
infestation of botflies (Dermatobia
sp.) was also of interest. Materials and Methods
The Experimental Site
The experiment was conducted from October to December in 1994. The Vila Pepita Farm located in
Barra Mansa County, 100 km from the city of Rio de Janeiro and 10 km from Barra Mansa City
(longitude 44o10’46”W., latitude 23 o32’23”S.). The topography is hilly; the climate is tropical with
an average temperature of 28 oC. There is a dry season from May to October and a rainy season
from November to March. Selected Animals and Epidemiology
Three lots of 15-month old, crossbred, male beef cattle (five animals per lot) were selected for the
experiment. Two lots were treated with EM5 during the experimental period while the third lot
served as an untreated control. A parasitic profile was established for each animal to assess the
initial level of tick infestation and number of engorged females. The animals were sprayed with
EM5 at 15-day intervals and the parasite dynamics were assessed by counting the number of 3-mm
diameter engorged females between sprayings. Each animal was identified by a numbered tag
attached to the ear. Concentration and Volume of EM5 Applied
The treated animals were sprayed with EM5 stock solution diluted with water to 50 percent between
October 14 and November 24, and diluted to 30 percent thereafter based on significant positive
results from the higher concentration. A backpack sprayer (Jacto brand, 20-liter capacity) was used
to apply the EM formulations with each animal receiving 3 liters of EM solution at each spraying. Results and Discussion
1. Results reported in Table 1 indicate that the animals in both lots treated with EM5
(50-percent dilution) showed a definite decrease in the number of engorged female ticks (Boophilus microplus
) about 40 days after the initial application compared with the untreated control lot, The tick population continued to decline as the EM5 concentration was reduced to 30 percent which indicates a residual effect of EM5. By the end of the experiment some of the EM-treated animals were completely parasite-free, while the control animals were highly infested.
2. Ticks smaller than 3 mm in diameter were not counted or reported in Table 1. However, it
was noted that the number of ticks smaller than the standard size, as well as the number of eggs, decreased significantly in animals treated with EM5.
) are a serious bovine parasite that cause serious damage to
the subcutaneous tissues, reducing the market value of the animal's hide. An important observation here is that some of the lesions in the hides of EM-treated animals tended to undergo a rapid cicatrization (i.e., healing), thereby preserving hide quality. Also, EM appeared to parasitize the botflies, destroying them after two or three sprayings.
4. Another noteworthy observation is that tick populations tended to be higher in
dark-colored animals compared with the light-colored ones. However, the opposite was true for the botfly populations. The exact reason for this is unclear, and whether it has some scientific basis should be investigated.
5. Ticks in the neck, ear, dewlap and inguinal (i.e., groin) areas of some EM-treated animals
were difficult to control and continued to grow for some time. Nevertheless, the tick populations in these areas did not show a significant increase after EM treatment.
6. The general health of the EM-treated animals increased progressively compared with the
control lot. Following EM treatment they showed a steady weight gain, healthier and brighter-colored hides, greater disease resistance, and increased wound cicatrization
Cost / Benefit Comparison of EM with Conventional Acaricides
The cost of treatment per animal for tick infestation using EM5 (applied at 30% dilution) compared
with two commercially-available acaricides, Ivermectin and Doramectin (applied at 1% active
ingredient) is shown in Table 2. The treatment cost per animal is substantially lower for three
applications of EM5 over a 45-day period than two applications of either acaricide over a 60-day
period. Moreover, it became apparent that after the initial treatment period, EM5 could provide
acceptable tick control when applied at monthly intervals due largely to its high residual effect.
Meanwhile, animals treated with the acaricides still had a significant tick population which
indicated a very low residual effect. Thus, the cost / benefit effect of EM5 was far greater than
either of the acaricides and eliminated the potential adverse effects of these chemicals on animal
health, human health, and the environment. Conclusions
Despite the short period over which observations were made on EM-treated animals, EM5 was
shown to be a cost-effective method for biocontrol of ticks in cattle compared with acaricides. In
addition, EM improved the health and condition of the animals, increased their rate of gain, and
enhanced their resistance to disease. The use of EM5 presents a promising new and affordable
approach for the control of tick populations and infestations in bovine animals which avoids
environmental pollution and adverse effects on human and animal health.
Table 1. Number of Engorged Tick Females (Boophilus microplus ), per Animal as Affected
by Time of Application and Concentration of EM 5.
Time of EM5 application (No. of engorged females)
Lot (No.) Animal (No.)
EM 5 stock solution was diluted with water and applied to animals at the following concentrations on the dates indicated:
10-14-94 to 11-24-94--50% EM5 12-01-94 to 12-15-94--30% EM 5
Table 2. Treatment Cost of Tick (Boophilius microplus ) Control per Bovine Animal Using
EM5 Compared with Two Conventional Acaricides.
Treatment cost per animal
Unit cost ($US)
Total cost ($US)
EM 5 at 30% dilution was applied 3 times during a 45-day period.
Ivemectin and Doramectin at 1% active ingredient were applied 2 times during a 60-day period. Appropriate References
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