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Quick sheep death action urged to avoid anthrax pasture contamination

by Terry Sim, 17 March 2017

A CALL for prompt reporting of sudden deaths in livestock around Swan Hill has been repeated by Agriculture Victoria as it prepares for an anthrax information session for sheep farmers next week.

Five sheep deaths from anthrax have been confirmed across four adjacent properties near Swan Hill. Other sheep have died on the properties over the last two weeks, but these have not yet been confirmed as due to anthrax.

Victoria’s chief veterinary officer Dr Charles Milne said it was really important that farmers report sudden deaths in livestock so that anthrax can be excluded as the cause of death.

“If it is anthrax then we can clean up their properties before the damage is done.”

Dr Milne said if an animal that dies of anthrax was not disposed of properly it would contaminate pastures and cause problems in future years.

“I suspect we are still at the early days of this, with a lot of investigations to undergo.

“But looking at the fact that there has been quite a number of carcases on the farms that we’ve found to date, that have been too decomposed to confirm whether anthrax was present or not,” he said.

“I can’t say for certain, but I suspect that this is a problem that has been going on for some time.”

Agriculture Victoria is encouraging all interested persons to attend an anthrax information session at the Swan Hill saleyards on Thursday, March 23. The anthrax community information session and situation update will start at 12.30pm.

Dr Milne said confirming in-field testing for anthrax did not cause any delays in control measure for the disease.

The initial on-farm immunochromatographic test done on sheep suspected with anthrax gave an instant result, and was “very very robust and 99.9 percent accurate”.

“We start the response immediately if we have a positive result.”

The response to a positive test included quarantine measures and collection of carcases for disposal by incineration.

“In most cases we’ve vaccinated on the farm before we get the official lab results.”

The legal requirement was that Agriculture Victoria had to do the ‘goldstar’ to confirm the on-farm result in a laboratory.

“Obviously being at Swan Hill, it takes a while to get to the lab and then it’s a 24-hour culture.”

Agriculture Victoria is urging farmers and those working with livestock to remain vigilant for anthrax. Prompt reporting of sudden deaths may potentially reduce the contamination of affected farms.

Any unexplained sudden deaths in livestock should be immediately reported to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Further information can be found at: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/animal-diseases/general-livestock-diseases/anthrax-in-animals

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