Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Second botulism outbreak in west Limerick

Martin Ryan

Livestock farmers in the mid-west are on a state of high alert after the deadly disease botulism struck herds in the area for the second time in less than 15 months.

Urgent meetings with the Department of Agriculture and Limerick Co Council are being sought by local IFA representatives after farmers in west Limerick reported a spate of livestock losses due to the dreaded disease.

"We are very concerned that herds are at risk again and farmers' livelihoods are at stake. An outbreak of botulism caused major problems in the county last year and losses are now being reported again," Limerick IFA chairman, Eddie Scanlan said.

"We are going to have to have much tighter controls on what can be done with the litter from broiler houses," he added.

Losses reported from a small number of farms in recent weeks have led to a widespread alert over the area and much tighter controls on poultry litter disposal.

Josie Ahern from Rathkeale, Co Limerick -- who lost several animals to the disease last year -- said that the new outbreak has been confirmed by vets.

Pat Culhane, from Cappagh, Askeaton said that losses have occurred in his area although litter was not used on any of the affected farms.

Serious livestock losses were also reported in 2009 in counties Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, Dublin and the midlands.

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The particles of the toxin can be carried by badgers, deer, birds, foxes and dogs on to farms a considerable distance from broiler houses or any land on which litter was spread.

Contamination of chicken litter has been blamed on dead chicks being included in the litter.

Farmers have called for a lifting of the ban on antibiotics in poultry feed for broilers. They argue that this would reduce mortality rates among young chicks.

However, the Department has stated that including antibiotics in poultry feed was not permitted under EU regulations and the spreading of animal by-products -- e.g. litter containing poultry carcass material -- on land was also prohibited.

Poultry farmers have pointed out that it would be "physically impossible" and "totally impractical" to expect broiler producers to remove the chicken carcasses from the litter.

Farmers are now seeking an alternative disposal outlet for broiler litter. Litter from poultry laying houses is not a problem.

Irish Independent