Territory Stories

Botulism Poisoning in Cattle in the Northern Territory



Botulism Poisoning in Cattle in the Northern Territory

Other title



Fitzpatrick, S.

Issued by

Northern Territory. Department of Regional Development, Primary Industry, Fisheries and Resources


Serial No. 651; Agdex No. 420/654; Agnote; E-Journals; PublicationNT; Agnote




This publication contains may contain links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).




Agriculture; Weeds; Biological control; Animals; Farm animals; Periodicals

Publisher name

Northern Territory Government

Place of publication





No: K29, September 2006

File type





Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



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Northern Territory Government Page 5 of 6 2. MPT - Mouse Protection test (Toxin neutralisation test) This test relies on paralysing mice with an injection of a toxic bacterial growth or toxic serum from an affected beast, and then protecting them with specific type C or D botulism antiserum. The test is good for identifying the presence of toxic botulism bacteria and is used with the ELISA test. However, it is not so useful in proving that a paralysed beast has botulism. This is because only very low doses of toxin are present for short periods in the bovine serum and the mouse is relatively resistant to the toxin compared to cattle. 3. Culture for the bacterium The botulism organism can be grown from any gut contents or even carcass material. The best samples are from lower intestinal contents and maggots from carcasses. Once the organism is grown in the laboratory, tests are carried out to show that it is C. botulinum, and to identify the type. This test will show that a toxic bacterium may be present but it does not prove that it was the cause of death. It may have been present without ill effect. TREATMENT Treatment options are limited Very early cases may respond to a purging of the intestinal tract to remove further toxin. Once a beast has absorbed botulinum toxin and has become affected there is nothing that can be done to speed up recovery. Antiserum is very expensive to produce and only available in very small quantities. If nursing is attempted, the beast must not be drenched through the mouth as it cannot swallow. However, a tube may aide the delivery of fluids direct to the rumen. The kindest option may be euthanasia. During an outbreak, vaccination may reduce potentially harmful effects if toxin is released by C. botulinum bacteria that have been consumed by cattle (toxicoinfectious form). Vaccination is not effective for cattle which have consumed toxin. PREVENTION Prevention is better than cure and the most practical way to prevent losses from botulism poisoning is by VACCINATION. The three steps recommended for the prevention of botulism poisoning are: 1. Vaccination with bivalent botulism vaccine following a recommended program. 2. Supplementary feeding of cattle with phosphorus and protein. 3. Removal of all carcasses and bones. Vaccination Vaccination with a bivalent (type C and D) botulism vaccine is the most effective long-term prevention strategy. There is a range of botulism vaccines available. Conventional vaccines involve either an initial two shot program, one month apart, or a single shot followed by an annual booster shot. An alternative long-acting vaccine involves an initial single shot followed by a booster shot every three years. Both vaccines produce a similar level of protection and the decision on which vaccine to select will depend on cost and management practices. All vaccines require booster shots to maintain protective levels of immunity.