Farm Talk

March 4, 2014

Anaplasmosis a stealthy profit-robber


Mark Parker — For a disease that’s not contagious, anaplasmosis sure gets around.

Speaking to a whole passle of beef producers at last week’s Animal Health Day in Independence, Kan., K-State Veterinarian Larry Hollis urged area cattlemen to get the costly disease in their sights.

Anaplasmosis infects the red blood cells, causing severe anemia, weakness, fever, lack of appetite, depression, constipation, decreased milk production, and sometimes death.

Abortion may also be an effect of the disease as the fetus — at any stage of development — is starved for oxygen, Hollis said.

Although younger cattle can become ill from the disease, mature cows and bulls are more severely affected and more likely to die.

“The economic impact is huge — even aside from the death loss,” Hollis asserted. “You’re going to lose money from reduced reproductive efficiency, reduced weight gain and reduced milk production — and having to cull otherwise good cows before they’re productive life should be at an end.”

And even though the disease is not contagious, in terms of one animal directly infecting another, anaplasmosis moves through the herd mechanically (needles, ear-taggers, castration equipment) and by vectors (biting flies and ticks).

“Anything that draws blood — anything that gets blood from an infected animal and transmits the infection to another animal,” Hollis explained.

What makes anaplasmosis especially tough, he said, is that most herds have carrier animals that stay infected their whole lives without showing obvious symptoms.

“I’d just about bet that each of you have it in your herd,” Hollis said. “It’s pretty much everywhere.”

Cattlemen can, however, take steps to reduce the spread an impact, he said.

First, consider not using needles more than once and, if they are, make sure they are disinfected between animals and never stuck back into the bottle after an injection, Hollis advised.

During fly season, producers can keep chlortetracycline or Aureomycin in cattle feed or mineral mix.

To be effective, however, cattle must consume at least 0.5 mg per pound of body weight daily and many mineral products do not contain adequate levels of CTC.

“It has to be at the right level and animals have to consume it,” Hollis said.

Treatment with a long-acting oxytetracycline (LA-200 type products) will usually stop further death losses within a week following treatment, he added, but cautioned that the simple act of driving some severely infected animals to a working chute can result in enough stress to bring about death.

And frequently, the oxytetracycline is administered too late, he said, adding that curative blood transfusions can also be employed.

Hollis told the producers that it’s extremely difficult to clear a herd of the disease but he said good diagnostic tests are available.

He suggested that cattlemen who opt for testing create separate herds for infected and non-infected cattle, retaining heifers from the non-infected cows and allowing attrition to reduce infected cow numbers.

The 28th edition of Animal Health Day was sponsored by the Wildcat Extension District and Montgomery County veterinarians Richard Barta, Kathi Bolton, Kevin Cooper, Paul Cotterill, Ed Epp, Eileen Hough, and Warren Newby.