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Anthrax risk rises

Flooding increases the probability that anthrax will appear over the summer.

Anthrax risk rises

Flooding increases the probability that anthrax will appear over the summer.

“Producers should seriously consider vaccinating their animals before spring turnout,” says Charlie Stoltenow, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian. The region’s first anthrax case of the season usually appears in June. Most often, the animal is found in a herd that has not been vaccinated.

The anthrax vaccine is very effective and safe, according to Stoltenow. It will not cause anthrax in animals and is not dangerous to humans. He advises producers to contact their veterinarian about getting their livestock vaccinated before they go out onto pasture. “Gathering up cattle in the summer for vaccinations is time-consuming, difficult and could have been prevented,” he says.

Anthrax is a concern because it can be a long-term problem. Spores of the bacteria that cause it can survive in the soil for many decades.

Key Points

• It may be a good idea to vaccinate cattle for anthrax.

• Wet weather and flooding can bring anthrax spores to the soil surface.

• Give cattle shots before turning them out on pastures.

A bad year

2005 was a bad year for anthrax in the upper Midwest and Manitoba. The disease killed more than 500 animals in the region. Most were cattle, but bison, horses, sheep, llamas, and farm-raised elk and deer also died.

Cases of anthrax develop in the region almost every year. However, favorable weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought, may make the disease more widespread. Rain and flooding can raise the spores to the ground’s surface, where livestock graze. Drought conditions can lead to soil erosion, which also allows spores to resurface.

For more information, contact Stoltenow at 701-231-7522 or or Neil Dyer, director of the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, at 701-231-7521 or

Source: NDSU Extension Service


too much water: Cows clip grass off close to the soil surface, where they can easily pick up anthrax spores. Flooding and heavy rains bring spores to the surface.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

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