YOUR TEXAS AGRICULTURE MINUTE
Vampire bats poised to cross southern U.S. border, impact livestock
By Gary Joiner
The common vampire bat is likely to cross the U.S. southern border in the next five to 20 years, according to researchers. The bats are not very far away now. The species has been documented within 30 miles of Texas.
The vampire bat’s arrival causes a lot of concern in agriculture due to the bat’s ability to transmit diseases, injure livestock and cause infections. Rabies is the most obvious issue because of livestock welfare and the potential to infect humans.
In Mexico, vampire bat rabies costs the livestock industry more than $46 million per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Infected cattle can spread rabies to people who come into contact with them.
Vampire bats feed on the blood of other animals. Their usual victims are livestock and occasionally wild mammals and birds. The bites don’t kill, but the possible rabies it carries will.
Wounds on cattle can often be found around the neck or tail. Because animals keep bleeding for a while after being bitten, dried blood can be a sign of a bite. Other signs are neurological. The virus travels to the brain and spinal cord, so infected cattle become disoriented and can’t move their hindquarters. They can become aggressive and charge at people.
Officials say vaccinating cattle in the U.S. against rabies is not common, but it may be the best option to prevent the spread of the virus once vampire bats arrive. Ranchers in far South Texas will want to consider whether or not to vaccinate their animals.
The preceding commentary is brought to you by Texas Farm Bureau, the “Voice of Texas Agriculture.” Called “Your Texas Agriculture Minute,” TFB will issue thought-provoking editorials each week—via print and audio—to spark understanding of agriculture in the Lone Star State and its impact on each and every Texan.
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