Investigation ongoing into botulism incidence which caused the death of up to 20 cattle on Kildare farm

Three cases of suspected botulism have been reported in Meath and Kildare
Three cases of suspected botulism have been reported in Meath and Kildare

Martin Ryan

A "through investigation" into  the possible link between poultry litter and a suspected incidence of botulism as the cause of the unexpected death of up to 20 beef animals on a Co Kildare farm last spring has been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture and Food.

However, six months after the incident, which involved a farmer loss of up to €30,000, Minister Michael Creed has stated in a Dail reply that the investigation "is not yet concluded" and remains ongoing.

The Minister told Deputy Timmy Dooley who raised the matter in a Parliamentary Question that the investigation involves ensuring  that "adequate measures are being taken to prevent outbreaks (of Botulism) on the farm where the poultry litter is being spread;  by the poultry litter haulier;  and on the poultry units that supplied the poultry litter".  

The Minister added "My Department is fully aware of the botulism incident referred to in the question.  A thorough investigation is currently underway and is not yet concluded.  Therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further  on the matter at this stage".

Minister Creed pointed out that there is 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. 

It is also understood that officials from the Department of Agriculture have inspected a farm in Co Meath where botulism is also suspected as the cause of sudden death of ten animal earlier this year.

Other reported losses of animals suspect to have been caused by Botulism over recent months remain unconfirmed.  There is no legal requirement for vets to notify the Department of Agriculture of suspected cases of Botulism in this country, although they are recommended to do so.  It is a legal requirement to report such cases in England.

Botulism, which is usually associated with poultry litter, is rated the most deadly known toxin in the world,  so deadly, that "sniffing 13-billionths of a gram can be lethal", and once ingested by an animal is fatal within hours, without remedy.

ICMSA President, Pat McCormack told the Farming Independent that any suspect Botulism infection is "extremely concerning" to livestock farmers.

 "There just isn’t room for complacency and farmers expect a clear and categorical conclusion on what happened (on these farms) and how any repeat can be avoided from the Department of Agriculture and Food" he added. 

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