“What we need for this program are good cowboys. That’s what our tick riders are, that and more. We can teach them the other stuff, but we can’t make a cowboy out of them,” says Ed Bowers, Director of Field Operations for the CFTEP and a former inspector for 19 years.

Bowers says mounted inspectors are doing the job today much the same as they did 100 years ago and explains the danger and harsh conditions under which tick riders must operate.

“Working with wild and unpredictable livestock is risky enough, but carrying out this work alone amid the harsh terrain and illegal activities—smuggling, drug running, and river bandits—on the river like is downright dangerous,” he adds.

Tick riders watch for things that don’t fit, like unfamiliar tracks on the trail and an unbranded cow in a herd of registered cattle. They search for signs of stray or smuggled animals, and when they find them, they are required to rope and inspect the strays and spray them on the spot. They are then driven to special dipping vats where a "tickicide solution" disinfects the animals.

“This represents our first line of defense against a serious animal disease that could devastate 90-percent of the U.S. cattle population if not kept in check along the border,” says Dr. Mathew Pound, entomologist at USDA’s Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory in Kerrville, Texas. Pound plays an active role in research and development of new technology designed to help fight the cattle fever war.