Includes all animals of the Bos and Bison genus


Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease of animals caused by a bacteria. Anthrax is not spread by animal to animal contact like many other livestock diseases. Rather, anthrax spores in the soil are likely ingested by livestock while they graze on pasture. Once inside the animal’s body, the spores become active. Infected animals may die before showing any clinical signs. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to anthrax, but cattle, sheep and goats are the most commonly affected. In rare cases, humans can contract anthrax after handling or eating infected animal products.

When anthrax is confirmed on a Minnesota farm, our district veterinarians place a quarantine on the herd. The quarantine can be released 30 days after the last animal death due to anthrax.

Since 2000, all positive anthrax cases in Minnesota have been confined to the northwest part of the state. As a precaution, producers with grazing animals in that area should consult with their veterinarians about vaccinating against anthrax infections. Additionally, livestock found dead in northwest Minnesota should be treated as an anthrax suspect. Carcasses should not be cut open and examined as this could release anthrax bacteria into the environment. Instead, producers should contact their veterinarian immediately so blood samples can be collected from the dead animal and submitted for testing.


Since 1934, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), livestock industry and state animal health agencies have worked on eradicating brucellosis from livestock. Minnesota was given a Brucellosis Class Free status in 1985 and has maintained it through present day. Brucellosis is now primarily a geographical disease found mainly in the Greater Yellowstone Area of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming where it is endemic in wild elk and bison.

Brucellosis can be spread between animals, and also to humans. The bacteria causing this disease spreads through milk, the aborted fetus, or other reproductive tract discharges. Infected animals can experience abortions, give birth to weak or underweight calves and have decreased milk production. Contact your herd veterinarian if you see these signs in your cattle. Your veterinarian can inspect your herd and recommend options to determine the cause, including screening for brucellosis if your veterinarian determines your herd may have been exposed.

To protect livestock and people from brucellosis, Minnesota has a role in surveillance for the disease. Positive test results from Minnesota cattle are reportable to the Board. The Board follows up on these suspect samples by investigating the herd of origin and testing the herd for brucellosis if necessary.

Cattle can be vaccinated by an accredited veterinarian to protect them from brucellosis and this was a major component of the eradication program. Since it is primarily a geographical disease affecting the Greater Yellowstone area, contact your veterinarian to determine if vaccination makes sense in your herd. Only female calves aged 4-12 months can be vaccinated. The vaccination of female cattle over 12 months of age is only allowed after application and permission from the Board.

Johne's Disease

Johne’s disease is a contagious, chronic and sometimes fatal infection that primarily affects the small intestine of cattle. This disease was recognized as an important animal health issue for the U.S. dairy cattle industry in the mid-1990s. It was estimated in the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) Dairy 2007 study that at least 68% of U.S. dairy herds are infected with the causative bacterium, Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis. In 1996, the estimated cost of Johne’s disease to heavily-infected U.S. dairy herds was approximately $200/cow, with an estimated national cost for the United States of about $200 million. A lower herd prevalence for U.S. beef cow-calf operations was reported in the 1997 NAHMS beef study.

Upon request, USDA and Board district veterinarians will be available to conduct Johne’s risk assessments if herd veterinarians are not available or able to assist.

For more information on Johne’s disease or to schedule a herd risk assessment, contact your veterinarian or neighborhood district veterinarian.

Official Identification

Breeding cattle, rodeo cattle and all exhibition cattle require official identification when they are being imported into Minnesota or moving out of a herd within the state.

Breeding cattle do not need to be identified if they are:

  • Consigned to a state/federal approved auction market
  • Moving directly to slaughter
  • Moving directly to a slaughter-only handling facility

Breeding cattle are defined as all cattle except:

  • Heifers of beef breed less than 18 months of age maintained for feeding purposes
  • Bulls under ten months maintained for feeding purposes
  • Steers and spayed heifers

Refer to our Official ID webpage to learn how to get official ID.

Record Keeping

When producers keep thorough records, it benefits everyone. Animal health officials can more quickly locate potentially exposed animals during disease events, shortening the time it takes to conduct testing, obtain herd histories, and release herds from quarantine. This means that you can get back to business as usual a lot faster simply by keeping records.

Records are required to be stored on your farm for five years. They should include the date of movement, official ID numbers, sex and breed of the animal, and the name and address of any other person or party involved in the buying or selling of cattle. Records for feeders can be kept and organized by group or lot numbers.

Find more detailed record keeping information in our animal disease traceability section.


Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease caused by a bacteria. The disease has the ability to spread between livestock, wildlife and humans. A national eradication program was launched in the 1930s and is on-going, as the disease is still present in some states.

Minnesota has eradicated bovine TB twice. The state first attained TB-Free status in 1971. When the disease was again discovered in beef cattle in 2005, the Board of Animal Health went to work. Thanks to the commitment and hard work of many, Minnesota regained a statewide TB-Free status in 2011.

Now that Minnesota livestock is free of the disease, it is our job to make sure TB stays out of the state. Our first line of defense is setting import requirements. Cattle at an increased risk of being infected with TB must meet additional import requirements, including whole-herd or individual animal TB testing.

Minnesota cattle are also tested for TB. Herd veterinarians conduct an initial test called the caudal fold tuberculin test (CFT). Animals that test suspect on the CFT will need a follow-up test performed by a Board of Animal Health or federal veterinarian. If the follow-up comparative cervical tuberculin test (CCT) is positive, the herd is quarantined. The Board and the USDA then work with the herd owner to determine next steps.

Additionally, federal animal health officials collect samples for TB surveillance at slaughter. The samples collected from slaughtered animals are sent to a federal diagnostic laboratory for testing. If TB is identified in samples from Minnesota-slaughtered animals, we are notified of these results and then begin an investigation to identify the source of the animal. Our district veterinarians gather background information on the infected animal and a quarantine is placed on the animal’s herd. The whole herd is TB tested to determine if other animals are infected.

Nitrates in water supply

High nitrate concentrations in water can harm livestock and domestic animals. Horses and ruminants like cattle, sheep, and goats are most susceptible to nitrates. Bacteria in their digestive systems reduce nitrate to nitrite, and the elevated nitrite levels in the blood can interfere with hemoglobin’s ability to carry oxygen through the body. Symptoms of nitrate poisoning include labored breathing, a blue muzzle, trembling, lack of coordination, and an inability to stand. The effects can be reversed if nitrates are removed from the animals’ diet. Review the Board’s “Guidance on nitrates in livestock water supply” document for information on how to interpret nitrate test levels and take appropriate action.