A number of cattle were reported to have “mysteriously died” on a farm in Co. Wexford last week, as first reported by Southeastradio.ie.
It was reported that about fifteen animals died suddenly on the farm in the Kilmore area of South Wexford. The “mysterious” deaths are now under investigation by the Department of Agriculture.
Fresh reports have surfaced online over the weekend that the deaths may have been due to Botulism, reports which have been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture earlier today, September 17th. They have confirmed that 12 cattle deaths can be attricbuted to botulism, caused by domestic production.
But what is Botulism?
Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces dangerous toxins under low-oxygen conditions. Consuming material contaminated by these toxins results in the fatal disease, botulism.
There are seven types of C. botulinum toxins in existence (Types A, B, C1, D, E, F and G). Type D and C toxins are mainly associated with animal botulism cases. Cattle are particularly susceptible to intoxication and all ages can be affected. Ingestion of the toxin, even a very small quantity, can be fatal within hours.
Wildlife and poultry carcasses can produce particularly high levels of Type D and C toxins and inappropriate storage or disposal of poultry litter or poultry carcasses can pose a risk of botulism for animals.While poultry manure is a valuable soil fertiliser containing nitrogen and phosphorus, if not re-used properly it can pose a huge risk.
The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) outlines a strict Codes of Good Practice to be complied with by poultry farmers, poultry litter hauliers and end-users of poultry litter, in relation to the management, transport and use of poultry litter in order to minimise the risks of contamination of pasture to cattle on the end user’s farm and neighbouring farms.
Signs and Symptoms:
Progressive flaccid paralysis
Clinically affected animals are generally bright and alert
According to the DAFM, the majority of all outbreaks tend to occur between March and November and are often associated with warm weather. However, winter cases have occurred due to contaminated silage.
There is currently no vaccine licenced for use against botulism in the EU and there are no specific treatments available other than the supportive therapy of clinical signs. The only effective control against botulism is prevention.
The prevention of botulism requires minimising animal contact with decaying matter and preventing ingestion of feedstuffs contaminated with decaying materials, such as wildlife and poultry carcasses.
While botulism is not a notifiable disease in Ireland, it is advised that cases be reported your local DVO or Regional Veterinary Laboratory.