Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content
Posted: 08/31/2022

How to Handle Lice in Your Herd

Think your insect problems will solve themselves come winter? Think again. Lice love the winter, and they’re ready to find a host in your herd. These tiny, wingless insects give cattle irritated, itchy skin by either sucking or biting them. Infested animals get restless, experience reduced weight gain, and are prone to infection after lice bite the skin open. Minimizing these lice populations with strategic treatment products from PBS Animal Health will set your herd up for success throughout the cold months (and keep their skin in great shape, too).

Cattle Lice

What Causes Lice on Cattle?

Lice are host-specific creatures that attach their legs to cattle hair. An infected animal that makes contact with another can transmit lice (a calf and his dam or a huddling herd for example). Coats get long in the winter which makes transmission and survival more likely.

Survival is one issue, but reproduction is another huge issue – once the lice attach to a host animal, it’s like happy hour within the herd. They lay eggs that hatch in 1-2 weeks and those babies (nymphs) turn into adults that lay their own eggs in another 3-4 weeks. The cycle creates a major population problem that bothers cattle in big ways.

Cattle Lice Infestation

Signs of Lice

Infected cattle rub against trees and fences/posts to scratch itchy patches. Eventually, this damages the hair, making the coat look dry and scaly. It’s common to find hairless patches, too. While some lice stay on the face and tail, most species stick to the neck, head, withers, and inner areas of the legs. Sometimes biting lice leave lesions along the back and other places.

Other signs include weight loss or even anemia in severe cases. In those instances, the loss of blood can seriously harm young calves. Severe grooming might even lead to stomach or intestinal hairball obstructions.

Can Lice Transfer from Cattle to Humans?

Lice affects all kinds of animals and humans, but the kind that bothers your cattle cannot transfer to you or your staff. Thank goodness! They can transfer from one cow to another, but not across species from cow to horse, or horse to dog, or any other animals within your facility.

Treatment for Cattle Lice

A wide variety of pour-on, injectable, or oral treatments are available to help lose the lice. Though some operations like to multi-task in September and perform lice treatment when they’re vaccinating and checking for pregnancies, an October or November treatment better limits the lice population’s likelihood of rebuilding.

Treatment won’t kill the eggs, so most products probably recommend a follow up 2-3 weeks later with a second application after the eggs hatch. This timing prevents further reproduction while also giving the animal some welcome relief. As always, pay close attention to the package for complete instructions.

Cydectin Cattle Pour-On
Check out a few of our customers’ preferred lice control products:

  • CyLence Pour-On Insecticide is a ready-to-use formula that works on biting and sucking lice as well as horn and face flies. Can be applied indoors and there’s no meat or milk withholding.
  • Ivomec Cattle Pour-On Dewormer offers up to 56 days of control of biting and sucking lice. This product is not for use in female dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves.
  • Dectomax Cattle Dewormer Pour-On weatherproof formula treats and controls 33 stages of internal and external parasites like worms, flies and lice. Safe for any age or class of beef cattle, including calves, pregnant cows and bulls.

These additional products generally can be used on all forms of cattle (beef, dairy and calves) for both biting and sucking lice:


  • Cydectin Cattle Pour-On Dewormer is an antiparasitic for beef and dairy cattle with zero slaughter withdrawal and zero milk discard. The purple dye shows which animals have been treated.

Product Comparison Chart

With so many products on the market, we wanted to make it easier to find the right one(s) for your facility. Our lice comparison chart shows several products side-by-side to help customers differentiate between application methods and easily identify which parasites each product covers. The cart also makes it easy to find which products can be used on lactating dairy, non-lactating dairy, and calves. Note: Even with this handy chart, it’s important to carefully read the labels to make sure that a product is suitable for your needs.

Don’t Let Lice Suck the Performance Out of Your Cattle

Lose the lice and regain your cattle’s performance with treatment products from PBS Animal Health! We’ve got a huge variety of products suited for various forms of cattle and/or preferred application methods. Shop today to find affordable protection against a variety of lice (and enjoy fast shipping that even beats their reproduction speed!).

Visit The Learning Center For More Articles

Read the Latest