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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Diseased poultry litter leads to botulism in cattle on north Cumbrian farms

At least 30 cattle have been killed by botulism after poultry litter polluted with carcasses was spread on fields.

Ian Mandle photo
Ian Mandle, of the NFU

It is thought that scavenging animals spread the problem to farms that had not used the manure by dragging infected carcasses from field to field.

Up to five farms in the Aspatria area have lost livestock to the bacteria, which grew on dead chicken carcasses and infected grazing cattle. The dairy stock killed was worth thousands of pounds but farmers have little hope of being reimbursed, even if the manure was nothing to do with them.

There have been similar cases on the Solway Plain according to vet Scott Hodgson of Beacon Veterinary Practice, which dealt with 30 cattle deaths in the Aspatria area this summer.

He said: “It seems to have come down to a particular batch of poultry manure and we have seen poultry carcasses in the fields.

“Making a diagnosis for botulism is extremely difficult.”

The bacteria knocks cattle off their feet and paralyses muscles, eventually reaching the heart and causing death. Sheep seem less susceptible and there is thought to be no danger to dogs and horses. Humans would only be affected if they ingested some of an infected carcass.

Cumbria County Council’s trading standards department investigated the outbreak with the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The FSA says milk from affected herds is not dangerous to the public.

Carlisle’s senior NFU adviser Ian Mandle says he has advised members to be careful. He added: “There are risks with using chicken litter on pastureland because it is not ploughed in.”

When used on arable land the manure is ploughed in, killing any bacteria.

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