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South Dakota veterinarian discusses common livestock diseases

Dr. Beth Thompson at Farmers Union State Convention
Dr. Beth Thompson at Farmers Union State Convention

South Dakota officials discuss common livestock diseases and prevention methods at the recent Farmers Union convention in Huron.

State officials present information on the most common diseases affecting livestock during the convention.

Beth Thompson is the state veterinarian. She said the key diseases farmers should look out for are anthrax, anaplasmosis, and avian bird flu.

Thompson said anaplasmosis is commonly known as a southern disease that is usually transferred by ticks to cattle. There's evidence the disease has reached South Dakota.

“Up here, the saving grace that we have is winter. But, it is possible that we may have imported some anaplasmosis animals into the state. Or, it may be just that climate change and some of our warmer winters is allowing some of those ticks or other organisms to continue to thrive through the whole year,” said Thompson.

She said one anthraxcase was found this year in Ziebach County. Last year, she said there were five positive cases.

Menno livestock
Evan Walton
Menno livestock

“We don’t know a place in South Dakota where we haven’t found anthrax and between water events, whether they are floods or heavy thunderstorms moving the soil around. It’s very possible that we have anthrax in every county in this state,” said Thompson.

Thompson said farmers should contact their veterinarian immediately upon finding any animals that died suddenly and unexpectedly, which is a key sign of anthrax.

Unlike avian bird flu, anthrax and anaplasmosis have vaccines. Thompson said farmers should always test animals that are found dead to help stop diseases from spreading.

Livestock that die from disease or infection have state regulatory steps of disposal.

“Here in South Dakota there are four approved methods for disposal; burning, rendering, burial, composting. But I do think to that composting actually rises to the top,” said Thompson.   

Thompson said choosing to compost animals provides nutrients to the soil which ultimately helps overall production.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.