Vaccinate now to protect livestock from anthrax

Map of areas affected with anthrax in NSW

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services (LLS) have urged farmers to vaccinate cattle and sheep against anthrax, to prevent the disease which can kill livestock.

DPI senior veterinary officer, Graham Bailey, said anthrax is unpredictable and affected stock often show few or no signs of ill health before they die.

“Annual vaccination should be considered on high-risk properties as anthrax can lie dormant in the soil for decades,” Dr Bailey said.

“High-risk properties include those where anthrax has been detected and nearby properties.

“In NSW, anthrax tends to occur in an area which runs through the centre of the state between Bourke and Moree in the north, to Albury and Deniliquin in the south.”

Farmers can contact LLS to obtain specific advice for their properties.

Vaccination prevents anthrax, which is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, from occurring and breaks the cycle of spore production to reduce the risk of anthrax occurring in the future.

When vaccination is conducted on an annual basis, spores in the environment die.

The last case of anthrax detected in NSW was in January 2020.

LLS Animal Biosecurity and Welfare business partner, Scott Ison, said farmers can apply to use the anthrax vaccine through their LLS district veterinarian.

“Once authorised applicants can place an order for the vaccine with their local rural supplier or private veterinarian,” Dr Ison said.

“Farmers should suspect anthrax as a possible cause if animals die suddenly. There may be no signs and the disease can begin with sporadic deaths of single animals over a few days before building to dramatic losses in a very short time.

“Cases of sudden death in livestock are regularly investigated by LLS and private veterinarians and in most cases anthrax is excluded as the cause.”

Anthrax, a notifiable disease which must be reported immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline by calling 1800 675 888, is listed as prohibited matter under the NSW Biosecurity Act.

Information about preventing anthrax is available on the DPI website or from LLS, 1300 795 299.

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