Now we are entering the depths of winter, most herds have brought their cattle in, and with this comes the risk of lice infestation, also known as ‘Pediculosis’. Lice populations exist in low numbers amongst healthy cattle but certain risk factors can allow the population to increase rapidly. This includes housing, cooler weather and poor health. Amy tells us more.

Lice are ‘host-dependent’. This means they cannot survive for long off their host and are spread by direct contact between cattle. Therefore, the tighter the stocking (i.e. at housing) the easier they can spread. Unsurprisingly, as winter continues the population increases more and more and so clinical signs are most commonly seen during late winter and early spring. Pediculosis is a disease of poor health; more prevalent in animals suffering from malnutrition or chronic disease. It is important to consider why your cattle are presenting with lice as well as looking at treatment.

Clinical signs include:

  • Itching leading to self trauma (hair loss and redness) usually of the shoulders and neck
  • Loss of production due to reduced feed intake, irritation and restlessness
  • Cattle infested with sucking lice can suffer from Anaemia (blood loss)
  • You can see the lice eggs by parting the hair along the midline and looking for white specs which look like coarse powder. Your vet can take samples if necessary for further diagnosis.


  • Thick winter coats provide the perfect home for lice – this is another reason to clip your cattle at housing
  • Continual monitoring of cattle health including body condition
  • Treat and quarantine all new animals for lice
  • Treatment can be provided in the form of a pour-on medication
  • Cattle will usually recover from pediculosis on turn out when their winter coats are shed and stocking density reduces