"Anthrax is a disease of cattle and other ruminants that results in sudden death in affected animals. It is also a potential human pathogen," said Daly, who also serves as the State Public Health Veterinarian.
Anthrax is caused by bacteria that can develop an environmentally resistant spore form in the soil. When the right conditions exist, these spores can become available for cows to graze. Once eaten by cattle, the spores become activated and produce toxins within the body that cause rapid death. Anthrax can be prevented by vaccinating cattle with the anthrax vaccine for cattle which is widely available, inexpensive, and very effective.
While the anthrax risk has been well-documented in many parts of South Dakota, and anthrax vaccination of cattle is routine in those areas, it is not always possible to predict where cases may occur. For this reason, Daly encourages South Dakota producers to use anthrax vaccine in their herds going to summer pastures.
Daly says that flooding is an environmental factor which may aid in making the anthrax spores available to cattle. Cattle going onto pastures that have previously experienced flooding or into areas where anthrax has been documented in the past, should especially be candidates for vaccine.
"Flooding disrupts the soil, washing up anthrax spores from lower soil levels. These spores then may be deposited on grass or other forage for the cows to eat after the pasture dries up, and warm temperatures occur," he said.
He says 2011 floods may increase the risk of cattle coming in contact with anthrax this season.
"The flooding experienced by many South Dakota Rivers in 2011, creates the possibility that anthrax spores that have been hidden for many years may now be made more available to cattle now able to graze those previously flooded areas," Daly said.
If Anthrax is Suspected Contact Your Local Veterinarian or the Animal Industry Board
During the summer, producers should take time to check all cattle frequently, says Oedekoven.
"Cattle producers need to promptly investigate any unexpected deaths on pasture, whether in cows, bulls or calves," Oedekoven said. "With anthrax and many other diseases, treatments and preventive measures are available, and prompt action can help prevent excessive losses."
If a producer suspects anthrax, Oedekoven says the case should be reported immediately to local veterinarians or to the State Veterinarian at 605-773-3321.
Suspect carcasses should not be moved or disturbed until a diagnosis has been made.
"Local veterinarians are excellent sources of information for cattle producers regarding anthrax," Oedekoven said.
For more information on anthrax, contact the South Dakota Animal Industry Board, SDSU Veterinary Extension, and state livestock extension field specialists. View the Links section of iGrow Beef at http://igrow.org/livestock/beef/