Call for action as up to 30 animals die in suspected botulism outbreaks in Kildare and Meath

Martin Ryan

Suspected botulism outbreaks are understood to be under investigation following animal deaths on farms in Meath and Kildare.

The cost of the outbreak in Kildare is being put at between €25,000 and €30,000 and it is believed to have been the worst case in this country for a considerable period.

Veterinary laboratory tests have confirmed botulism was found in a number of carcases of animals from a farm in Kildare where it is understood nearly 20 animals died.

Meanwhile, botulism is suspected to be the cause of death of up to 10 animals on two farms in Meath in recent weeks.

The Farming Independent has been unable to get confirmation on reported cases from other parts of the country, because botulism is not legally notifiable in Ireland but the Department of Agriculture website still states that "cases should be reported".

Botulism, which is usually associated with poultry litter, is rated the most deadly known toxin in the world.

It is so deadly, that "sniffing 13 billionths of a gram can be lethal", and once ingested by an animal is fatal within hours.

The Department of Agriculture officials visited the farm in Co Kildare, inspected the animals and made special arrangements for disposal of carcases. Monitoring of the movement of 'clean' animals is continuing.

The Farming Independent has seen Department of Agriculture Lab test findings which confirmed that "botulism toxin detected . . . suggesting the animals ingested the spores".

Contacted on the possible origin of the poultry litter suspected as the botulism carrier, the Department confirmed that botulism infection had recently caused animal deaths but the spokesperson said it did "not comment on individual cases" which were being investigated.


The poultry industry is highly dependent on off-farm outlets for re-use of the litter, which is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, but poses risk to human and animal health if not re-used properly.

Monaghan Co Council have pointed out that registered and approved contractors must be used for transport of poultry manure and detailed records maintained on operations for inspection.

Import of poultry litter from Northern Ireland, where multiple cases of botulism have been reported in recent years, must have pre-approval from the Department of Agriculture.

Each load must secure veterinary certification pre-dispatch, and a veterinary certificate must accompany the litter to the destination.

ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, said that any suspected botulism infection is "extremely concerning" to livestock farmers and that "there just isn't room for complacency".

"Farmers will expect clear and categorical conclusions on what happened and how any repeat can be avoided from the Department of Agriculture urgently," said Mr McCormack.

If there was a "gap" in the regulation, distribution and supervision of poultry litter then the onus was squarely on the Department of Agriculture to "get to grips" with the situation, Mr McCormack maintained.

The ICMSA leader said there was "far too much at stake in terms of animal health and our reputation for maintaining the most stringent standards" to risk any further incidents.

New case under investigation following outbreak in Meath

Indo Farming