Mites Cattle Scabies

From Bugwoodwiki

Authors: Gregory Johnson and John B. Campbell (Retired)


Identification and Field Biology

Cattle are infested with several species of mites which cause a skin disease called mange. Mites are minute ectoparasites that belong to the Class Arachnida which includes spiders and ticks. Adult mites have two body parts and eight legs, whereas adult insects have three body parts and six legs.

The important species of mites that infest the skin of cattle include the Sarcoptes scabiei var. bovis, the causative agent of sarcoptic mange; Psoroptes ovis, the psoroptic scab mite; and Chorioptes bovis, the chorioptic scab mite. All forms are considered very contagious and are efficiently transferred to other cattle by direct contact. A fourth species, Demodex bovis, is found in hair follicles and associated glands in cattle. In general the follicle mite does not impair the health of the host, although lesions caused by heavy infestations can cause defect in raw leather. The highest mite infestations usually occur in the winter months when animals are under stress from cold weather, inadequate nutrition, respiratory diseases, etc. Detection of mange mites, S. scabiei, P. ovis and C. bovis, must be reported to the appropriate state department of livestock and appropriate treatments administered.

Sarcoptes scabiei var. bovis, the itch mite, lives in burrows or tunnels formed in the skin by the adult female. The female lays eggs in the burrow and the immatures disperse creating new burrows. The result is a infestation that can quickly spread to others parts of the body. Clinical signs of an infestation include inflammation of skin with the skin becoming thickened and crusted and hair loss. In cattle lesions usually first appear on the underside of the neck, inner thigh, brisket and tail head. Diagnosis is made by deep skin scrapings.

Psoroptes ovis, the sheep scab mite, causes psoroptic mange in cattle - causes a highly contagious form of mange that can spread rapidly by direct transfer between animals. This species is a non-burrowing mite that lives on the surface of the skin. Infestations usually begin on the shoulders and rump. The adult and immature mites feed on surface skin cells and skin exudates rather than piercing the skin and feeding on blood. Feeding causes skin inflammation, itching, hair loss and formation of crusty lesions or scabs. Secondary bacterial infestations are common in severe cases.

Chorioptes bovis, chorioptic mange mite, is a non-burrowing mite that is commonly found on the lower legs and is often referred to as foot or leg mange. Clusters of eggs are deposited on the skin with a sticky substance. Most animal infested with C. bovis are asymptomatic, although high densities of mites (thousands) can be irritating and can lead to foot stamping, rubbing and leg chewing.

Demodex bovis adult females deposit eggs in hair follicles beneath the skin. As infestations increase, nodules form beneath the skin. Lesions tend to be concentrated around the neck and shoulders. Larger nodules (the size of a chicken egg) may rupture to produce oozing sores, resulting in skin damage and defects in raw leather.

Animal Response and Economic Losses

Mange mites are very contagious, can spread rapidly and can have severe economic consequences on animal health. The host reaction to burrowing and non-burrowing mites results in intense itching accompanied by hair loss, which can predispose the host to secondary bacterial infection. Infestations also cause defects in raw leather and losses to the tanning industry. Research has demonstrated that cattle infested with P. ovis had lowered weight gains and feed efficiency, especially in feedlots and crowded conditions.

Management Approaches

Identification of mange mites is often difficult and requires skin scrapings in order to recover mites and confirm their identification. Chemicals used to control mites are referred to as acaricides and can be applied as an insecticidal spray, a pour-on or injectable.

Acaricide recommendations

Acaricide (% AI) Application Method Application Rate Comments

(40% permethrin)

Spray See Label Beef and dairy cattle

Thoroughly wet animal Repeat application in 10 – 14 days

Taktic EC

(12.5% amitraz)

Spray See Label Beef and dairy cattle

Two treatments 7 – 10 days


(11.75% phosmet)

Spray See label Beef and non-lactating dairy cattle
Permectrin II

(10% permethrin)

Spray See label Beef and dairy cattle

Spray to thoroughly cover entire animal

Do not repeat treatment for 2 weeks



Pour-on (0.5%)

Injection (1.0%)

See Label Treatment Slaughter interval 45 days.
Eprinomectin (Eprinex) Pour-on 5 mL/110 lb body wt. No treatment-slaughter interval. No restrictions on dairy cattle.

Do not treat calves less than eight weeks old.

Ivermectin (Ivomec,Phoenectin, Noromectin, other generic names) Pour-on

Injection 1% AI

5 mL/110 lb body wt.

1 mL/110 lb body wt.

Treatment-slaughter interval 35 days.

Treatment-slaughter interval 48 days.

Moxidectin (Cydectin) Pour-on


5 mL/110 lb body wt.

1 mL/110 lb body wt.

No treatment-slaughter interval. No restrictions on dairy cattle.
The information herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and that listing of commercial products, necessary to this guide, implies no endorsement by the authors or the Extension Services of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Criticism of products or equipment not listed is neither implied nor intended. Due to constantly changing labels, laws and regulations, the Extension Services can assume no liability for the suggested use of chemicals contained herein. Pesticides must be applied legally complying with all label directions and precautions on the pesticide container and any supplemental labeling and rules of state and federal pesticide regulatory agencies. State rules and regulations and special pesticide use allowances may vary from state to state: contact your State Department of Agriculture for the rules, regulations and allowances applicable in your state and locality.