BISMARCK – North Dakota's state veterinarian is urging livestock producers to protect their animals from anthrax.

“Producers should make sure their animals are current on vaccinations,” said Dr. Susan Keller. “Don't forget recently purchased animals that may not be vaccinated.”

Most often reported in northeast, southeast and south central North Dakota, anthrax has been found in almost every part of the state in the past. Keller said wet conditions this year are favorable for anthrax to appear.”

“Producers should contact their veterinarians for anthrax vaccine,” Keller said. “The vaccine is effective, but takes about a week to establish immunity, and annual boosters are necessary. Veterinarians may recommend two doses in known higher risk areas.”

Keller also asked producers to monitor their herds and report any unexpected deaths to their veterinarians.

It is not unusual for North Dakota to record a few anthrax cases each year. In 2005, an estimated 1,000 head of cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk died from the disease. Keller said an aggressive educational effort by veterinarians and extension agents encouraging and reminding producers to vaccinate their animals has dramatically reduced livestock deaths in subsequent years.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture has an anthrax factsheet on the home page of its website at

Anthrax is caused by ingesting the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. The spores of the bacteria can be dormant in the ground for decades and become active under ideal conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought. When animals graze or consume forage or water contaminated with the spores, they can develop anthrax.