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Anthrax Vaccinations Recommended

12 May 2010
University of South Dakota

US - South Dakota Cooperative Extension veterinarian, Russ Daly, advises cattle producers to include anthrax vaccines in their programmes before turning cattle out to summer pastures.

Anthrax, which is caused by bacteria that can exist as spores in the soil for long periods of time, could arise this summer due to conditions that follow a wet spring.

“One of the environmental factors that may aid in making the anthrax spores available to cattle is the disruptive action of flooding on pastures,” Mr Daly said. “Flooding can wash anthrax spores up from lower levels of the soil, and the spores can be deposited on grass and other forage cows eat.”

Mr Daly cited an SDSU survey from 2005 that found standing water on pastures as a potential risk factor for losses due to anthrax.

“That year, parts of northeast South Dakota experienced anthrax for the first time in many years, following a wet spring in which many pastures experienced temporary flooding,” said Mr Daly.

“While ranchers in some parts of South Dakota have made anthrax vaccine a routine part of their pasture turnout programme for many years, it’s important to realise that most areas within the state have, at one time or another, experienced losses due to anthrax.”

Mr Daly added that it is not always easy to predict where conditions will be right for the development of the disease. Like other veterinarians around the state, Mr Daly encourages all producers to use anthrax vaccine, especially in areas that were previously flooded.

The vaccine is widely available, inexpensive, and effective, Mr Daly said. One dose of vaccine at pasture turnout is generally effective for the whole grazing season.

“During the summer, producers should check all cattle daily, and move quickly to investigate unexpected deaths in cows, bulls, and calves,” he said. “Like many diseases, prompt action against anthrax can prevent excessive losses.”

Local veterinarians are the best source for information regarding anthrax in a specific part of South Dakota. The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, including Extension Veterinary Science, and the South Dakota Animal Industry Board are other strong sources of information.

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