Beef and sheep farmers are being advised to avoid using poultry litter on their land because of the risk of botulism.

Incidence of suspect botulism has increased substantially since 2003.

The Veterinary Laboratory Agency says evidence suggests that direct access to litter from broiler houses is a significant factor in most of the recent outbreaks.

Litter stored or spread on neighbouring farms may also be a factor.

The VLA guidelines suggest not using litter on ruminant farms wherever possible and adopting good personal hygiene when moving or spreading litter.

Other recommendations include:

* Moving stock away from direct contact and close proximity to fields where litter has been stored or spread (as fertilizer), including on neighbouring premises
* Not using machinery used for handling litter for storing, mixing or moving feedstuff
* Ensuring litter stores are secure enclosed constructions to prevent access by scavenging birds and animals, including domestic animals and comply with relevant environmental regulations

The use of poultry litter containing carcasses or any carcass material as fertiliser to spread on agricultural land is contrary to the Animal By-Products Regulations 2005 in England, with equivalent legislation in Wales, Scotland and NI.

Any poultry carcases have to be taken out before litter is removed from the poultry house.

The full guidelines, including additional advice for poultry keepers, can be found at: