Distribution and prevalence of ticks and tick-borne disease on sheep and cattle farms in Great Britain

Katie Lihou*, Hannah Rose Vineer, Richard L Wall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
201 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: The most abundant and widespread tick species in Great Britain, Ixodes ricinus, is responsible for the transmission of a range of pathogens that cause disease in livestock. Empirical data on tick distribution and prevalence are required to inform farm management strategies. However such data are largely unavailable; previous surveys have been rare and are usually relatively localised.

Method: A retrospective questionnaire survey of farmers was used to assess the reported prevalence of ticks on livestock across Great Britain. Spatial scan statistics and kernel density maps were used to assess spatial clustering and identify areas of significantly elevated risk, independent of the underlying distribution of respondents. Logistic regression models were used to identify risk factors for tick presence.

Results: Tick infection risk to livestock is shown to be spatially aggregated, with areas of significantly elevated risk in north Wales, northwest England and western Scotland. Overall, the prevalence of farms reporting tick presence was 13% for sheep farms and 6% for cattle farms, but in ‘hotspot’ clusters prevalence ranged between 48–100%. The prevalence of farms reporting tick-borne disease overall was 6% for sheep and 2% for cattle, but on farms reporting ticks, prevalence was 44% and 33% for sheep and cattle farms respectively. Upland farming, larger flock sizes, region and the presence of sheep on cattle farms were all significant risk factors for tick presence.

Conclusions: These data have important implications for assessing both the risk of tick-borne disease in livestock and optimising approaches to disease management. In particular, the study highlights the need for effective livestock tick control in upland regions and the southwest, and provides evidence for the importance of sheep as tick maintenance hosts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalParasites and Vectors
Volume13 (2020)
Issue number406
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2020


  • disease risk
  • livestock
  • pathogen
  • Ixodes ricinus
  • TBD management


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