A dairy farmer from Co. Fermanagh has seen approximately 130 of his cattle die in a suspected case of botulism, as reported by the Fermanagh Herald.
The farmer had been running a herd of 170 cattle, which has now been reduced to just forty in the space of three days. According to reports, the herd fell sick after consuming silage which contained the bacteria causing botulism, Clostridium botulinum.
The farm was subsequently visited by officers from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEARA), though the cause of outbreak has not yet been revealed. The DEARA did, however, confirm their visit to the farm.
“DEARA Veterinary Officers visited a farm in Co. Fermanagh following reports of the death of a number of cattle.” said a spokesperson for DEARA.
“After investigations, it has been determined that the cause is not an epizootic of notifiable disease under the Diseases of Animals (NI) Order 1981. It is, therefore, a matter between the herd keeper and his/her private vet.” They continued.
The Ulster Farmers Union have confirmed in recent days that they are co-ordinating donations to give to the farmer involved. They will be sending all members a letter on how they can help out. Those who are not members and would like to donate to help the farmer, can do so on 028/048 66326622.
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.