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Vaccinate Livestock Against Anthrax Now

NDSU’s veterinarian is urging producers to protect livestock from anthrax.

Livestock producers should get their animals vaccinated for anthrax now, especially if they are in areas with a history of the disease, North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow advises.

A case of anthrax has occurred in south-central North Dakota’s Sioux County.

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. This is the first time a confirmed case of anthrax has been found in Sioux County in several years, state veterinarian Susan Keller says.

Anthrax vaccine is effective, but it takes about a week to establish immunity, and it 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 considering treating with antibiotics should contact their veterinarian because antibiotics decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine, Stoltenow says.

Anthrax is a concern because spores of the bacteria that cause it can survive in the soil for decades. Cases of the disease develop in the region almost every year. However, favorable conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought, may make it more widespread.

Producers should monitor their herds for unexpected deaths and report them to their veterinarian, Stoltenow says.

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

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Charlie Stoltenow, (701) 231-7522,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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