Botulism is a potentially devastating disease that is commonly seen in northern Australia where it associated with cattle chewing bones to obtain phosphorus or protein.
Cattle in intensive dairy feeding systems that rely on stored feed are at risk of botulism because at some stage the feed may be contaminated with a dead animal or some rotting plant material. Only a relatively small amount of contamination of the feed source with the botulinum toxin could result in an outbreak. The toxin could come from the carcase of a small animal (e.g. a mouse, rat or snake) being accidentally processed with the feed.
Some of the most spectacular outbreaks of botulism have involved dairy cows being fed total mixed rations based on silage. In a recent case more than 80% of the herd was lost in a short period of time. The disease may not be common but the effects can be devastating.
Clostridium botulinum types C and D produce potent toxins in rotting carcases, feed contaminated with dead rodents, birds or reptiles, or any rotting material including plants.
|Signs of the disease|
After ingesting botulism toxin, cattle may die suddenly or develop weakness, paralysis moving from the hindquarters forward and may show a paralysed tongue and drooling. Death is the usual result through paralysis of the breathing muscles.
|Potential economic losses|
There is very little that can be done to treat cattle suffering from botulism. Physical removal of the toxin in the early stages may reduce the effects. Good nursing may be of assistance in mild cases of the disease.
|Prevention and control|
The cost to vaccinate a dairy herd can vary significantly. It is important to compare the different brands and various retailers to ensure you get the most economical vaccination program.
|Vaccines available and shedules for use|
Botulism vaccines currently registered for use in Australia and their respective vaccination schedules
* After the initial injection
Some product information refers to non-endemic areas where the disease is not common and the cattle will not be receiving regular exposure to low levels of the toxin to assist the maintenance of immunity. An annual vaccination is recommended in these situations even when the three-year vaccine is given.
The vaccines vary in their claims and directions for use and it is important to note the differences between the vaccines before selecting one to suit your production system. Refer to the product's label for more information.
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