Four hundred twenty-seven of 441 adult Holstein dairy cattle from a 1,200-cow dairy died over a 1-week period during early spring 1998. Affected animals were from 4 late lactation pens, one of which included the bull string. Signs included weakness, recumbency, watery diarrhea, and death. Eighty animals from the 4 pens were dead approximately 8 hours after the first ill cows were noted. Affected cows would collapse on stimulation and extend all 4 limbs with moderate rigidity. Several lacked lingual tonus and had abdominal breathing patterns. The animals had been fed a load of total mixed ration that included a rotten bale of oat hay containing a dead cat. No common toxicants were identified, and pathologic examination revealed no consistent lesions. Testing of tissue from the cat carcass found in the feed sample using mouse protection bioassay identified the presence of type C botulinum toxin. Samples of feed, tissue from affected animals, cat tissue from feed, milk, and serum were also tested using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) specific for type C botulinum. Two samples of rumen contents were tested and found to be positive for botulism by ELISA, and 1 of 3 liver samples had a weak positive finding. No botulinum toxin was found in milk or sera using the ELISA.
Additional publication details
Type C botulism in dairy cattle from feed contaminated with a dead cat