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Once Bitten

By   /  June 16, 2014  /  1 Comment

Lyme disease – It’s a scary thing! Here’s a cautionary tale from the Grass Whisperer about his tick encounter, along with information about how ticks manage to dig themselves in, and how quickly you need to remove ticks to reduce your chances of getting diseases from them. You’ll also find out if it works to trade grazing information to cover your tick health care costs.

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If you have an aversion to creepy crawling things, you may want to brace yourself for the following paragraphs.  However squeamish this makes you feel, Country Singer Brad Paisley’s suggestion to “Check for ticks” is good advice for Northeastern residents.

The once bitten notation came from the confines of the bucolic Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in downstate Pocantico Hills, New York.  It seems rather ironic to have heard concerns from young farmers about the tick dangers of tall grazing during our pasture planning workshop and having a stealthy, wood tick attach itself during a biological monitoring exercise.  Makes you think twice about rolling around in the pasture.

Troy's first bulls-eye tick biteThe unwanted visitor must have appreciated my warm armpit as it hunkered down for the truck ride back to Deansboro.  Not paying much attention other than feeling a pimple developing, I kept on doing farm work the next day.  By suppertime there was a bit more pain and upon lifting my shirt, the “site” looked like the telltale sign of a bulls-eye pattern.  Making it creepier was my wife exclaiming, “I can see little feet moving”.   Yikes!!!

What should we do?  A question many have probably pondered when faced with this dilemma.  Numerous scenarios of detaching the little freeloader flashed into my mind:  Subjecting it to Frank’s hot sauce; intense heat from a lighter (not!), gasoline, WD-40, alcohol, hot wax, pliers and even thinking of the Warble fly larvae and pinching it out.  Upon consulting Google (isn’t the internet great?!) and discovering this might be a case for a health professional, we decided to test the resolve of the Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare Urgent Care Center in Utica, N.Y. at closing time.

What Makes a Tick StickSince this was our inaugural tick bite experience and it had cinched itself well into the skin, we didn’t want to take any chances with a farmer fix and leaving any infectious parts behind. I felt more like a sissy than a rugged, independent grass farmer as I entered the facility seeing surgical-masked nurses tending to sick children, injured teenagers and elderly patients.  From within the glass encased nerve center came a voice that indicated it could be a two hour wait.  Not a great Saturday date night for a tired farm couple.

Surprisingly after the insurance billing procedure, I was able to hit the gurney within an hour.  Whether out of luck or fate, I was treated by a feisty and jovial country gal named Jennifer Klimek Yingling who was an Advanced Practice Nurse and Assistant Professor of Nursing and Health Professions while also developing a grass farm with her husband and kids. In the midst of developing a prognosis and approach for freeing my bulls-eyed friend, we collaborated on an emergency room grazing planning session complete with goal setting, paddock allotments and production and financial expectations for filling the freezer.  Who knew getting a now named wood tick removed could be so insightful.  I did question if this grazing professional information could be used to offset the bill.  I didn’t get much more than an a laugh though.

According to Jennifer, she has seen or treated over 80 cases of human tick bites which in my book, gives her the field experience I needed to overcome my fear.  After a tetanus shot, antibiotic pills and disinfecting the area, she took her cool set of forceps and in screwgun-like fashion, backed out my blood engorged guest from my pit and placed in a bottle for future Lymes disease testing.  Thanks Jen!

It took about 2 weeks for the redness to go away but the memory will linger for some time.  I’ve been told the chances for contracting the many symptoms of Lymes are much less if you dislodge the critter within 24 hours of detection.  There are also natural and chemical repellents you can use to decrease your odds of an attack as well as physical barriers (long pants, shoes, etc).  Please take a few minutes to educate yourself on this new enemy and be vigilant in prevention and early detection for you, your family and your animals. I realize this subject can be scary but as an adult I choose to remain optimistic. If I subscribe to Brad Paisley’s thinking, checking for ticks can also be construed as fun!

Here’s the video link for those of you on tablets.

Portions of this article were previously published by Lee Publications in The Country Editor and Country Folks

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About the author

contributor

Troy Bishopp, aka "The Grass Whisperer" is an accomplished professional grazier of 27 years, grasslands advocate and media guy who owns and manages Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raises dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased organic native pastures. The whisperer routinely asks customers, Is there any grass in the animal products you buy? Beef grazed on the farm has been served at President Obama's inaugural dinners, restaurants and to diners as far away as Japan. Troy also works for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist and is a free-lance writer, maintaining a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com

1 Comment

  1. bee says:

    You have never been bitten by a tick before?! Wow. We’ve pulled out so many ticks that the idea of going to the hospital to have one removed makes my wallet hurt.

    Lyme and other tickborne diseases are a concern for anyone who works outdoors, not just those in the Northeast. Lyme is spreading fast and no one should assume they are outside the range. Case in point: My sister contracted Lyme in Virginia in 1990, when it was unheard of outside New England. In fact, today the upper midwest is a hot zone for Lyme – particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota. Cases are reported every year all across the country.

    I work in Maryland and have found that the #1 most effective tick repellent is wearing rubber boots. I wear them year-round, even on 100 degree days. DEET does not work. If you prefer to use chemicals, get Permethrin but follow the instructions carefully because that stuff is toxic. Apply only to your clothes, NOT your skin.

    Tucking long pants into socks does nothing to repel ticks, it only makes them easier to see, and that’s only if you are wearing light-colored pants. But deer tick nymphs are so tiny and translucent that they are almost undetectable even on a white background. That’s why it is so much more important to prevent them getting on you in the first place.

    Many or most cases of Lyme do not develop the bulls eye rash (the actual % is unknown since many are undiagnosed). If you get any weird, unexplained fever/flu-like illness, take at least 4 weeks of doxycycline. This is a very serious illness that can ruin your life. I’ve watched it happen too many times.

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