Coleraine farmer loses five cattle to Botulism

The local farmer hopes that by speaking out it might help others to avoid the disease.
The local farmer hopes that by speaking out it might help others to avoid the disease.

A Coleraine man has warned other farmers in the area to be on the alert for cases of Botulism after he lost five cattle to the disease.

The man said he believes the cattle contracted the fatal disease after a neighbouring farmer spread poultry litter, possibly contaminated with hen carcasses, on his fields.

He explained: “I lost the animals on June 27, two that morning and two in the evening, with the fifth one at the end of the week.

“The vet had been here on the farm doing a routine TB test and noticed the two cattle in the field in the morning,” he said adding that the cattle were worth over £6,000.

There is no compensation for losses and the man claimed no insurance company will cover for Botulism cases. He has also raised concerns at the run off from the fields into the water system which ends up in the Coleraine reservoir.

The farmer said he had asked for water samples to be taken at his farm, without success. He says there are two different water systems running through his farm.

The farmer said he now felt in limbo as he was unsure whether it was up to him to speak to the landowner involved or if it was the statutory duty of DAERA.

“I haven’t spoken to him because I don’t know if its my place or not,” he said.

“I feel as if someone is not doing their job. All I want is someone to do something about this. I also want to warn other farmers in the area to be careful that the same thing doesn’t happen to them and their cattle.

“I have never had any bother like this before until this poultry litter was brought into the area and I have been told that another neighbour has lost some cattle, though I’m not sure.”

In response a DAERA spokesperson said: “Botulism is not a notifiable disease under the Diseases of Animals (NI) Order 1981, and no statutory action is taken in cases or suspected cases of botulism. Vaccination and biosecurity measures in relation to botulism are the responsibility of farmers and animal keepers in conjunction with their private veterinary practitioners.

“The UK Food Standards Agency’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has concluded that the risks posed to the human food chain by outbreaks of botulism in cattle, sheep or goats, associated with broiler litter, are very low. The ACMSF has therefore recommended that, while meat and milk from clinically affected cattle, sheep or goats should not enter the human food chain, there is no need for restrictions on the sale of milk or meat from clinically normal animals in affected herds.

“Following a positive on-farm botulism case, DAERA notify the Food Standards Agency (Northern Ireland) and provide the above public health guidance to the herd/flock keeper.

“While the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) Regulations (NI) 2011 permits the spreading on land of poultry litter, the spreading of litter contaminated by carcases is an offence.

“If the Department receives a complaint about the spreading of chicken litter contaminated with chicken carcasses, officials will investigate,” he added.

Botulism is a rapid onset, usually fatal disease caused by the botulinum toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Typical signs include hindlimb weakness progressing to paralysis, collapse and death. Common sources of toxin include animal carcasses, rotting organic material and poorly prepared silage Treatment is rarely attempted but vaccines are available for disease prevention in cattle.