Poultry litter risk factor for botulism in cattle
According to an article in the Belfast Telegraph Irish farmers have been warned not to spread poultry litter on agricultural land that is to be grazed or harvested for silage or hay the same year. Scientists in Northern Ireland have revealed that the practice may be linked to a rise in botulism in cattle.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) was cited as saying its investigations have provided strong circumstantial evidence that broiler litter is a risk factor for many of these outbreaks.
AFBI was further quoted as saying, "It is believed contamination of broiler litter with the carcasses of chickens that have died from various causes during production can render the litter dangerous for cattle."
"It is speculated that even small fragments of carcases transferred onto pasture by scavenger animals, such as foxes, dogs or crows, can pose a risk to grazing cattle. Scavengers may gain access to this material after it has been stacked outside or spread on pasture."
AFBI says poultry carcasses should be promptly removed from the chicken house and disposed of by incineration, or rendering as required by EU Regulation No 1774/2002. Following removal of the broiler crop, all poultry house doors should be kept closed until the litter is removed.
The litter should not be removed from the house until it can be loaded directly onto spreading equipment, covered vehicles or immediately stacked and covered.
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.
If litter must be spread, it should be deep-ploughed into arable ground. If this is not an option, cattle should not have access to the treated fields for at least several months.
However, there is no guarantee that the treated fields would then be safe for cattle and it is important to remember that fragments of carcasses on pasture may be transported by scavenger animals and birds to neighbouring fields.