Towards a new phenotype for tick resistance in beef and dairy cattle: a review

Heather M. Burrow, Ben J. Mans, Fernando F. Cardoso , Michael A. Birkett, A. C. Kotze, Ben J Hayes, Ntanganedzeni Mapholi, Kennedy Dzama, Munyaradzi C. Marufu, Naftaly W. Githaka, Appolinaire Djikeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


About 80% of the world’s cattle are affected by ticks and tick-borne diseases, both of which cause significant production losses. Cattle host resistance to ticks is the most important factor affecting the economics of tick control, but it is largely neglected in tick control programs due to technical difficulties and costs associated with identifying individual animal variation in resistance. This paper reviews the scientific literature to identify factors affecting resistance of cattle to ticks and the biological mechanisms of host tick resistance, to develop alternative phenotype(s) for tick resistance. If new cost- effective phenotype(s) can be developed and validated, then tick resistance of cattle could be genetically improved using genomic selection and incorporated into breeding objectives to simultaneously improve cattle productive attributes and tick resistance. The phenotype(s) could also be used to improve tick control using cattle management. Based on this review, it is recommended that three possible phenotypes (haemolytic analysis; measures of skin hypersensitivity reactions; simplified artificial tick infestations) be further developed to determine their practical feasibility for consistently, cost-effectively and reliably measuring cattle
tick resistance in thousands of individual animals in commercial and smallholder farmer herds in tropical and sub-tropical areas globally. During evaluation of these potential new phenotypes, additional measurements should be included to determine the possibility of developing a volatile-based resistance phenotype, to simultaneously improve cattle resistance to both ticks and biting flies.Because the current measurements of volatile chemistry do not satisfy the requirements of a simple, cost-effective phenotype for use in commercial cattle herds, consideration should also be given to inclusion of potentially simpler measures to enable indirect genetic selection for volatile-based
resistance to ticks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Production Science
Early online date4 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2019


  • Adaptive traits
  • Cattle breeding
  • Ticks
  • Parasitology
  • Genetic variation
  • Host resistance
  • Tick count
  • Immune response
  • Blood parameters
  • Skin hypersensitivity
  • Volatiles

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