A Kerang East dairy farmer has lost more than 100 of his milking herd to botulism in less than a month.By Sophie Bruns
A Kerang East dairy farmer has lost more than 100 of his milking herd to botulism in less than a month.
The botulism has been traced back to round bale silage that was added to a TMR (total mixed ration) and fed out to the milking herd through the mixer wagon.
Botulism is an acute form of a toxic paralysis caused by Clostridium botulinum.
The spore survives in the environment as a durable spore but rarely and only under favourable conditions does it germinate into a toxic bacterium.
On Thursday, August 8 Leigh Prout went down to get the cows for the night milking and three cows wouldn’t get up.
Vet Paul Clavin confirmed the botulism.
During the course of the following week Mr Prout lost 84 cows.
‘‘I would head down to the paddock and my first thought would be: who is not going to get up today? Mr Prout said.
‘‘The cows didn’t show any physical signs of getting sick and you certainly couldn’t pick the ones that were going to die.
‘‘They all looked fine and had heaps of milk but all of a sudden they would just go down.
‘‘We tried everything we could for them but it was all in vain, really.
‘‘The only thing that would have saved them was if I had of vaccinated them in the first place.’’
Mr Prout had been using a TMR for about eight years and making silage for 20.
And while he had heard of cases of botulism in silage, he never thought it would happen to him.
‘‘Realistically I guess it was just ignorance why I didn’t vaccinate my own herd,’’ he said.
‘‘Now I believe this is the most important vaccine you can give, even more important than 7 in 1.
‘‘I have done a lot of reading over the last month and even the smallest amount of botulism in something as small as a drop-tail lizard is enough to cause multiple deaths.
‘‘The spore Clostridium botulinum can be found in any animal or bird but it needs the environment of the silage to grow.
‘‘I can either do nothing and go broke or try to dig my way out of it. You can’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself.
‘‘We sort of held our own through the drought and we recovered from losing everything when we were flooded for four months in 2010.
‘‘Last year was tough but I really thought this year was going to be the year.’’
Milk and meat from affected animals does not enter the food chain. Milk factories cease collection of milk until the all clear is given and animals are humanely destroyed.
Mr Prout still has all his young stock and 40 milkers. There will be 70 heifers to come into the herd next year.
‘‘A few of our good cows survived and we may flush them and breed back up from there,’’ he said.
Mr Prout said he had received a lot of support from the farming community and his milk company, Murray Goulburn.
‘‘Initially I didn’t want to tell my story but you can’t sweep something like this under the carpet,’’ Mr Prout said.
‘‘There were stories going around that we poisoned foxes and that’s how the botulism got into the silage; that we vaccinated our cows and it didn’t work; but that’s not true.
‘‘I wanted to set the record straight.
‘‘The truth is whatever happened to my silage could easily happen to yours — but if I had of simply vaccinated my herd I could have avoided this whole terrible situation.’’
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