Only 3 species of ticks – Ixodes ricinus (castor bean tick), Haemaphysalis punctata (coastal red tick) and Dermacentor reticulatus (marsh tick) – infest UK livestock.
Ixodes ricinus is widely distributed throughout the UK, wherever the environment favours the survival of the free living stages. Ticks are active for longest in the western parts of the UK, but climate change is disrupting the usual seasonal patterns.
In the UK, ticks are vectors for infectious diseases such as redwater fever (Babesia spp), tick-borne fever, tick pyaemia and louping ill. Infestations are seen typically in extensively managed systems where sheep have access to tick habitats such as rough hill ground.
Tick infestation of sheep is important because of its role in the spread of several common diseases in the UK, including:
Tick-borne fever (anaplasmosis) – caused by transmission of a protozoan parasite, which causes damage to blood cells, leading to anaemia and immunosuppression.
Louping Ill – caused by a viral infection which results in sheep suffering neurological problems (incoordination and paralysis) and can be very serious, particularly in combination with other tick-borne diseases.
Tick pyaemia - Caused by S.aureus bacteria, normally found on the skin but is injected through bites. Causes abscesses, typically in joints.