The warm winter months provided many Texas growers a jump start to the planting season, and early spring rains have replenished soil moisture in large areas of the state. But, as they say, not all that glistens is gold.

Entomologists and livestock specialists are warning farmers across the U.S., including Texas and parts of the greater Southwest, that mild and wet conditions in recent months could be setting up a year for heavy tick problems, especially after incubation and larvae development, reach their peak in June.

While last year’s historic drought caused extensive damage to agriculture, it also stressed insect populations. But while tick season last year was termed mildly moderate, spring rains and warm winter temperatures have provided the perfect tick breeding scenario in 2012 and signs of early tick problems from Missouri to the Southwest have already emerged. 

University of Missouri livestock specialist Eldon Cole reports a large group of cattle in mid-May (2012) suffering from a serious tick infestation were identified. He says ticks are an economic concern because they can stress cattle and may result in anemic conditions. Cole says a few cases of anaplasmosis in his state each year can be common and attributed to tick problems.

Cattlemen in Texas are familiar with tick-borne animal diseases. The USDA Tick Eradication Program, the longest running program of its kind, is still in operation along a large stretch of the Texas-Mexico border.

Ed Bowers is the director of field operations of the USDA-APHIS Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program in Laredo. He says for more than100 years inspectors and “tick riders,” a group of specially trained and mounted inspectors, have combed the rugged backcountry of this border region in search of stray cattle and horses as well as smugglers who attempt to bring illegal animals across the Rio Grande.