Cattle are susceptible to a disease called anaplasmosis, which is mainly spread by ticks as well as needles and equipment previously used on animals infected with the disease. (Photo by Keith Weller, courtesy USDA Agricultural Research Service)

“From a control standpoint, my FIRST recommendation is to avoid introducing the disease in the first place,” said Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Professor Hans Coetzee. “Don’t buy a problem.”

If you are considering purchasing a new herd bull or increasing the size of your cowherd by buying from other herds, have an open conversation with the people you’re potentially buying animals from. And visit with your veterinarian about testing animals coming into your herd

SECOND, he emphasized, “Institute sound biosecurity practices. I was part of a team of investigators that found six out of 10 uninfected animals that were exposed to a needle previously used to inject an animal infected with anaplasmosis became sick. That, unfortunately, is a pretty impressive transmission rate.”

Because of that, he said, “Producers are strongly advised to change needles between animals. That’s the absolute best route of control. That does take time and some money, but you can buy a lot of injection needles for the cost of one dead animal.”

It’s also important to disinfect any equipment that potentially could have contact with blood (dip equipment for 1 to 2 minutes into a solution of 0.75 cup bleach per 1 gal. of water). This step should take place between each animal, and such equipment includes dehorning saws, nose tongs, ear-tagging devices and castration instruments.

Coetzee said that the THIRD most important step in controlling anaplasmosis, especially in areas without an endemic problem, is to implement a strategic fly- and tick-control strategy using such methods as insecticide ear tags.

This step, along with others such as treating sick animals judiciously with antibiotics, should be done in consultation with a veterinarian.

“It’s critical to have a very good relationship with your veterinarian,” he said. “Have a conversation with your vet about anaplasmosis and what control strategies should be applied. That’s key.”