In recent weeks and months, suspected botulism has caused serious problems on Irish farms. It is on the minds of many and was covered by a number of speakers at the Irish Tillage and Land Use Society’s (ITLUS) winter conference last week.

Botulism is caused by ingesting a toxin called Clostridium botulinum and is known to be spread by poultry manure contaminated with dead carcasses.

Fatality can occur within hours of animals sniffing or ingesting a tiny amount of the toxin. The disease can also affect people, but different strains affect animals and humans.

Code of practice

Seamus Barron of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told the conference attendance that the code of practice for the prevention of botulism is being updated on the Department’s website.

“Botulism is very much associated with poultry manure and in particular dead carcasses of birds contained in the poultry manure,” Seamus explained.

I’d encourage anyone who is taking in poultry manure to look very closely at what’s happening and to take heed of the code of practice and all the requirements to do with poultry manure.

Seamus listed a number of measures to take to prevent botulism on farms.

These measures include:
  • Ensuring there are proper records on the movement of poultry manure;
  • Ensuring there are no carcasses in the manure;
  • Ensuring that it’s used without any delay;
  • Plough immediately after spreading;
  • Do not allow livestock to graze land where poultry manure has been spread;
  • Do not make silage on lands where it is spread;
  • Do not store on land – even in the open period.

Seamus emphasised that: “Poultry manure – at any time – cannot be stored on land.”

Over the course of the day farmers were told that poultry manure needs to be covered and stored in an appropriate area. For example, one farmer stored it in an old silage pit and covered it.