Cattle deaths from suspected botulism outbreak

Investigations are ongoing into the deaths of a number of cattle in Co. Kilkenny recently following a suspected outbreak of botulism.

In a statement issued by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the department confirmed that there are “reports of cattle deaths from what appears to be an incident of poisoning due to botulism”.

Carcasses have been submitted to the Regional Veterinary Laboratory for examination, the department added.

Staff from the local regional veterinary office are investigating the outbreak.

AgriLand understands that up to 20 cattle have died on one particular farm.

Botulism is caused by the ingestion of preformed toxin which has been produced by the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria in decaying vegetation or in animal or bird carcasses.

Horses, cattle, chickens and waterfowl are most susceptible to intoxication; while cats, dogs and pigs are more resistant, according to the department.

These toxins are some of the most powerful in existence. They attack the nervous system (nerves, brain and spinal cord) and cause paralysis (muscle weakness), according to the National Health Service in the UK.

Carrion and broiler litter are the most frequently-associated sources of botulism in cattle.

Direct access to broiler litter or grazing on fields near to where broiler litter has been spread are associated risk factors.

The clinical signs of botulism include:
  • Progressive weakness;
  • Posterior Ataxia;
  • Progressive Flaccid Paralysis;
  • Drooling;
  • Animals are generally alert;
  • Difficulty swallowing; and finally
  • Death.

Botulism is not a notifiable disease in Ireland, but cases should be reported to your local DVO or Regional Veterinary Laboratory so the incidence of the disease in Ireland is monitored, according to the Department of Agriculture.