Vet warns of sudden cattle deaths after anthrax outbreak

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Dr Rob Bonanno says any sudden death of cattle should be managed carefully. Photo by Geoff Adams

An experienced dairy vet has urged farmers to report any sudden deaths of cattle.

Dairy consultant Rob Bonanno said the anthrax bacteria can kill cattle relatively quickly.

“There could be a temptation to write-off a sudden death as snake bite, but I suspect that sometimes snakes can get blamed for deaths they had nothing to do with,” Dr Bonanno said.

“If you find a cow has died without any previous symptoms or history, call your vet.”

Dr Bonanno was speaking to Country News after the confirmation of five deaths due to anthrax on a cattle property near Shepparton.

He said a vet can conduct a quick field test from a blood sample which will be a strong indicator if anthrax is present.

“Don’t move the animal if you’ve had a suspicious death. You could be spreading the anthrax spores around and they can stay in the soil for decades.”

Dr Bonanno, a vet with 33 years of experience and a dairy consultant with Apiam, said he felt for the farmers who had reported anthrax deaths, but everyone should remember that it could happen to anyone in the Goulburn Valley.

“There have been outbreaks on many properties and the spores can easily be moved from one property to another.

“If you have a sudden death, and particularly at this time of the year, in the heat, anthrax has to be in the frame.

“So I am telling farmers, if you get a sudden death, don’t move them, notify the vets and they can do a relatively quick field test.

“If you get a positive test, the vet can tell you the next steps.

“It’s not a cause for panic. There are some protocols to follow.

“Remember, there have been isolated outbreaks at different places, that have been contained.”

Dr Bonanno said if carcases were moved without checking they could end up at a knackery and put people at risk.

He urged farmers to continue to practice good biosecurity measures and not to hesitate to contact their vet or the 24-hour AgVet hotline Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Agriculture Victoria said its veterinarians and animal health officers were working closely with livestock owners in the region, assisting them with surveillance and vaccinations if needed.

“Anthrax is not a concern for the public,” an AgVic spokesperson said.

AgVic said anthrax does not spread rapidly and is not contagious for humans.