NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed that cases of botulism continue to occur in ruminants in Northern Ireland following results of tests carried out by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).
Investigations by AFBI have provided strong circumstantial evidence that broiler litter is a risk factor for many of these outbreaks.
Botulism is a severe, often fatal, form of blood poisoning caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria that produce toxins under certain environmental conditions. The bacteria are commonly found in the environment and will grow to high levels in decaying organic matter including animal and bird carcases.
It is believed that contamination of broiler litter with the carcases of chickens that have died, from various causes during production, can render the litter dangerous for ruminants.
Even small fragments of carcases transferred onto pasture by scavenger animals, such as foxes, dogs or crows may pose a risk to grazing ruminants. Scavengers may gain access to this material during storage or following spreading on land, but spreading of poultry litter contaminated with carcases is not permitted.
The department recommended that poultry litter should not be spread on agricultural land that is to be grazed, or from which silage or hay is to be harvested, in the same year. This is because fragments of carcases, containing botulinum toxins, may persist on pasture for a considerable time.
Given the limited arable area and large poultry sector in Northern Ireland, a significant amount of poultry litter is currently spread on pasture. New bioenergy plants are in the pipeline to help solve Northern Ireland's poultry litter problem.ThePoultrySite News Desk