The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services are encouraging farmers across the state to vaccinate their cattle and sheep against anthrax – a serious disease that can kill stock of any age or class with no warning.

DPI’s Senior Veterinary Officer, Dr Graham Bailey said anthrax is unpredictable and annual vaccination should be considered on high risk properties as it can lie dormant in the soil for decades.

“Cases of anthrax in NSW tend to occur in an area which runs through the centre of the state; between Bourke and Moree in the north, to Albury and Deniliquin in the south,” Dr Bailey said.

“High risk properties include properties where anthrax has been detected previously, or close by properties. Farmers should contact their Local land Services to obtain advice specific for their properties.

“By preventing anthrax from occurring, vaccination breaks the cycle of spore production.

“If vaccination is continued over time, spores in the environment will die, reducing the risk of anthrax occurring in the future.”

Local Land Services and private veterinarians each year respond to many notifications of sudden death and anthrax is excluded as the cause in the vast majority of cases.

The last case of anthrax was detected in February 2019.

Local Land Services Business Partner of Animal Biosecurity and Welfare, Charlie Lucas said anthrax disease is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and affected stock often show few or no signs of ill health before they die. 

“Farmers can apply to use the vaccine through their Local Land Services District Veterinarian and once authorised, they can then place an order for the vaccine with their local rural supplier or private veterinarian,” Mr Lucas said.

“Farmers should be suspicious of anthrax if animals die suddenly, because in many cases there may be no signs and the disease may begin with the sporadic deaths of single animals over a few days before building to dramatic losses in a very short time.”

Anthrax is listed as prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act and is a notifiable disease in NSW.

Anyone who suspects anthrax must report it immediately by calling the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

For more information about preventing anthrax, visit the DPI website or call Local Land Services on 1300 795 299.