A potentially deadly bacteria is plaguing cattle herds across Oklahoma.
Anaplasmosis has been in the United States for about 30 years. It’s common in the summer time when horse flies and ticks are most active. But one Green Country vet says this summer is one of the worst he’s seen in years.
“It's actually a bacteria that's transmitted primarily by biting flies, ticks, anything that transmits blood, you can also do it with needles,” Beggs Veterinarian Dr. Gary Bynum said.
Ranch Kimberly King is raising about 40 head of cattle on the Bixby farm that has been in her family since before statehood.
“My grandfather, great-grandfather, father, they all raised cattle,” she stated. “I want to do the best I can for them, to put out the best product to the consumer that I can.”
But this summer has been a rough one.
King has lost three cows already this summer to the blood-borne bacteria.
“These are actually mothers in production, so not only do you lose the mother, you lose a potential calf production,” she explained.
King's loss could cost her upward of $6,000.
Bynum says after an infected horse fly or tick bites it transfers parasites that affect the red blood cells and cause cattle become anemic.
“Without treatment, they will die,” said Dr. Bynum. “Sometimes, they get so anemic that they don't get enough blood to the brain and they'll kind of go crazy and they'll charge you.”
One of King’s infected cows charged her earlier this summer.
“She went from looking up at me to full charging and I back up and kind of dodged her a little bit and then she turned around and came after me again,” said King. "In this weather, they're kind of laying around, they're kind of lazy. It's hard to pick up on a sick cow."
That cow died, but if caught early enough there are treatments that can save the cattle.
Ranchers can also use things like medicated feed mineral and vaccines to keep the animals from getting sick.
King says she had been using mineral, but doesn’t think she used enough. She says she’ll add more and vaccinate her cattle from now on, along with other preventative measures to keep the pests away.
“We try to cut it down as much as we can through cattle rubs, dusting, things like that. We try to prevent,” she said. “You just have to be vigilant with them and check them, be among them and know your cows.”
Bynum has seen more than 30 fatal cases already. But with symptoms taking as many as eight weeks to show up, the worst may be yet to come.
“We will see this from now all the way into fall,” Dr. Bynum stated.
Which means ranchers will be watching closely to keep their herds safe.
“You battle it, and it's worth it,” said King.
Experts say Anaplasmosis doesn’t contaminate meat.
Bynum says the problem isn’t bad enough to impact beef prices.
The vet says the potentially deadly bacteria is most common in cattle, but can also be found in deer and sheep. He says there's also tick strain that can make dogs and cats sick, but it won't be fatal.