Tick treatment practices in the field: Access to, knowledge about, and on-farm use of acaricides in Laikipia, Kenya
The prevention of tick-borne diseases is a major challenge for livestock production globally. Tick control strategies include the use of acaricides, but the prescribed strategies do not achieve the desired results in several countries, including Kenya. To better understand how tick treatment practices, contribute to reported tick treatment failures, we assessed livestock owners’ acaricide procurement, level of knowledge about acaricides and tick resistance, and how they apply acaricides. We also assessed the quality of the commonly available acaricides. We focused on three livestock systems in Laikipia County, Kenya: two private ranches; one community ranch whose members communally graze their cattle and acquire and apply acaricides; and individual livestock owners in two pastoral communities who individually graze their cattle and acquire and apply acaricides. Through interviews and focus group discussions we assessed; access to acaricides, livestock owners’ knowledge, and acaricide use practices; interview data were triangulated with participant observations (n = 107). We analysed nine commonly used acaricides to determine the active ingredient concentration and we determined the concentration of active ingredients in acaricide dilutions collected on farms. All livestock owners had access to and used chemical acaricides for tick control, predominantly amitraz-based. Private ranchers bought one amitraz-based acaricide in bulk directly from the manufacturer, while all other livestock owners bought from agrovet shops. The livestock owners acquired knowledge about acaricides from their own experiences and through experience-based recommendations from peers, but not from the technical information provided by the manufacturers and agrovet shops. All pastoral livestock frequently changed acaricide brand and active ingredient class. A large majority of pastoralists (86%) mixed acaricide brands within and across active ingredient classes; a smaller majority (56%) mixed acaricides with crop pesticides and insecticides. Our lab tests confirmed the content description on the labels bought from agrovet shops. However, on-farm acaricide dilutions from all three livestock systems deviated from the level recommended for effective treatment. If too diluted, the acaricide does not kill ticks, promoting resistance development. If too concentrated, this increases environmental contamination and raises public health concerns. Livestock owners lack a technical understanding of the functioning of acaricides, compromising their use and effectiveness. The widely adopted mixing of acaricides with insecticides and pesticides raises serious health concerns.