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Anthrax found in Sask. cattle herd

Anthrax found in Sask. cattle herd

Lab results confirmed the findings on Sept. 25

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Anthrax is affecting a Saskatchewan cattle herd in the RM of Cote #271.

“Anthrax was confirmed by laboratory results on September 25, 2023, as the cause of death in one cow and is suspected in two additional deaths in the same herd,” a Sept. 26 government press release says.

Under Canadian law, anthrax is a federally reportable disease, and a veterinarian must be notified is anthrax is suspected.

The bacteria Bacillus anthracis causes anthrax.

These bacteria can survive in soil as spores for decades.

The spores are brought to the surface when the ground is disturbed by erosion, heavy rain or other factors.

Because of how livestock graze, these animals are at a higher risk to contract anthrax.

“Beef cattle and bison are most likely to contract the disease because they graze lower to the ground than many other herbivores, particularly in drought conditions or overgrazed pastures,” the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) says.

One challenge with anthrax is how fast it can spread through an animal’s system.

The spread can happen so quickly an animal can die within hours of ingesting spores without showing any symptoms.

“Affected animals are usually found dead without any signs of illness,” the Sask. release says.

Some symptoms, however, can include trembling, high temperature, difficulty breathing and convulsions.

Vaccination is the best way to protect livestock from anthrax infections.

“The Sterne vaccine is the only licensed vaccine in Canada, and is only labelled for use in cattle, sheep, horses, goats and pigs,” a Saskatchewan fact sheet says.

The vaccine can be used of bison as well, and it takes up to 10 days for immunity to develop.

Saskatchewan livestock producers have dealt with anthrax in the past.

Livestock died from anthrax in 2021, 2019, 2016 and 2006.

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