Now is the time to have livestock vaccinated against anthrax.
"Cattle should to be vaccinated before they're turned out into the pasture," says Charlie Stoltenow, North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian. "Producers will be working their cattle in the next several weeks, so this is the perfect time to get their livestock protected against this disease."
Vaccination is especially important for livestock in areas with a history of anthrax, he adds.
While the disease mainly has been reported in northeastern, southeastern and south-central North Dakota, it has been found in almost every part of the state, according to state animal health officials. Cases of the disease occur in the region almost every year.
Anthrax is a concern because spores of the bacteria that cause it can survive in the soil for decades. Favorable conditions, such as the flooding and heavy rainfall some parts of North Dakota have experienced in the last few years, may make it more widespread.
Vaccines are effective, but they take about a week to establish immunity, and they must be administered annually because immunity appears to wane after about six months, Stoltenow says.
He recommends producers check with their veterinarian to make sure their livestock's vaccination schedule is adequate and the vaccination is up to date.
Livestock in areas where anthrax has been found should be vaccinated about four weeks before the disease usually appears. Herds within six miles of a prior case of anthrax also should be vaccinated, especially in years with wet spring weather and/or flooding.
If anthrax is detected in a herd, producers should move the herd immediately to a new pasture away from where dead animals were found to prevent other animals from getting infected, Stoltenow says.
During severe outbreak conditions, animals that haven't been vaccinated and are exposed to anthrax may have to be treated with antibiotics and then vaccinated.
Producers thinking about treating with antibiotics should contact their veterinarian because antibiotics decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine, Stoltenow says.
Producers also should monitor their herds for unexpected deaths and report those losses to their veterinarian.
Because anthrax also is a risk to humans, people should not move a carcass. The carcasses of animals that died from anthrax should be disposed of, preferably through burning, as close as possible to where they died. Any contaminated soil should be piled on top of the carcasses for burning, Stoltenow says.
For more information about anthrax, visit http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cattledocs and click on Veterinary Medicine.