AROUND 130 cattle have died as a result of a suspected case of botulism at a dairy farm in Fermanagh.
It is believed that the original herd of 170 cattle has been reduced to around 40 in the space of three days.
Botulism, a form of food poisoning, is caused by the ingestion of preformed toxins. It is thought that the animals fell ill after consuming silage which may have contained such toxins. The botulinum toxins are some of the most powerful in existence and attack the nervous system, causing paralysis. A frequent cause of botulism associated with cattle can be the spreading of broiler litter.
While the cause of the latest suspected outbreak has not yet been confirmed, at the time it prompted a visit from Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs officers.
Earlier this week a spokesman for DAERA said, “DAERA Veterinary Officers visited a farm in Co. Fermanagh following reports of the death of a number of cattle. After investigations it has been determined that the cause is not an epizootic or notifiable disease under the Diseases of Animals (NI) Order 1981. It is therefore a matter between the herd keeper and his/her private vet.”
A line on the DAREA website highlights that “botulism is not a notifable disease and no statutory action is taken in cases or suspected cases of botulism.” As a result it is believed that compensation may not cover losses.
Speaking when the news of a suspected botulism case first broke, UFU deputy president and local Florencecourt farmer David Brown said, “It has all the signs of being botulism. We can’t imagine it’s anything else.
“It’s obviously something that was in his silage because when he fed it to his cows it had a devastating impact on his herd. Who’s to say where that’s going to end, because my understanding of botulism is that some of that bacteria could continue to work over the course of the coming days. You step in to vaccinate but that’s sort of after the fact unfortunately,” Agriland reported.
Cllr. Sheamus Greene added, “From what I have heard this is an awful tragedy for the farmer involved. It’s quite scary that something like that could happen, that a disease could wipe out a farmer’s livelihood.
“Even when you think you’re doing everything right, unforeseen things can still go wrong and livelihoods can be put at risk.”