Anaplasmosis is an infectious parasitic disease of cattle, sheep, and goats caused by the microorganism Anaplasma marginale. This parasite infects the red blood cells and causes severe anemia, weakness, fever, lack of appetite, depression, constipation, decreased milk production, jaundice, abortion, and sometimes death. The incubation time for the disease is typically around 21-45 days. Adult cattle are more susceptible to infection than calves. The disease is generally mild in calves under a year of age, rarely fatal in cattle up to 2 years of age, sometimes fatal in animals up to 3 years of age, and often fatal in older cattle. Once an animal recovers from infection, either naturally or with normal therapy, it will usually remain a carrier of the disease for life. Carriers show no sign of the disease but act as sources of infection for other susceptible cattle. Occasionally, however, some animals will spontaneously clear themselves completely of the infection and become as susceptible to the disease as they were originally.
Anaplasmosis occurs in most parts of the world. It is recognized in North Dakota but is most commonly found south of Kansas. The organism is transmitted through blood transfer by biting insects and ticks, and surgical instruments such as needles. In one study, a needle was used in an infected steer and then reused in the next 10 animals. That needle transmitted Anaplasma marginale to six of the next 10 cattle.