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Combating diseases like anaplasmosis is a vital part of herd management because it can quickly cut into your profit margin.

"A clinical case of anaplasmosis is conservatively estimated to cost about $400 per animal. And the total cost of anaplasmosis to the beef industry is estimated to be over $300 million per year," says Denny Hausmann, DVM, Alpharma cattle technical service manager.

Of even greater concern is when anaplasmosis, an infectious disease that is considered endemic to the southern part of the U.S., begins to infiltrate areas where producers are not familiar with or have ever heard of it.

According to Alpharma Animal Health, anaplasmosis has been diagnosed in all of the contiguous 48 states,

which means awareness and understanding of this disease has become increasingly important.

Yet a recent cow-calf survey revealed that a high percentage of producers are unclear about what the disease is. Completed by the USDA, the survey reports that:

  • 13.7% know some basics,
  • 16% are fairly knowledgeable,
  • 22.7% recognize the name but not much else,
  • 47% had never heard of the disease.

Anaplasmosis is caused by a minute parasite, Anaplasma marginale, that attacks red blood cells in cattle.

"It can be transmitted biologically through ticks and mechanically from biting flies or contaminated needles," says Hausmann.

Cattle of all ages may become infected with anaplasmosis, but the severity of illness increases with age. Calves under 6 months of age rarely show enough signs to indicate they are infected. Cattle 6 months to 3 years of age become increasingly ill, and more deaths occur with advancing age. After 3 years of age, 30% to 50% of cattle with clinical anaplasmosis die if untreated.

First symptoms of an anaplasmosis-infected animal are when it becomes weak and lags behind the herd. The animal refuses to eat or drink. Skin becomes pale around the eyes and on the muzzle, lips, and teats.

As the disease progresses, the animal may be constipated, become excited, and show rapid weight loss. It may have yellow-tinged skin and rapid respiration, which may cause producers to confuse the anaplasmosis symptoms with bovine respiratory disease. An animal may also fall or lie down and be unable to get up.

Treatment of animals depends on the stage of the disease, which include incubation, developmental, convalescent, and carrier. Aureomycin, Alpharma's brand of chloratetracycline, is the only brand approved to control an active anaplasmosis infection in free-choice feeds.

"Anaplasmosis can be an insidious-type disease, and producers should contact their veterinarian to develop a program that fits their needs," says Hausmann.

Alpharma Animal Health has recently released a booklet, Answer Book for Anaplasmosis, to help with common questions about the disease.

Request a free copy by calling 800/834-6470 or by e-mailing

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