What to do with your livestock during a bushfire

It’s been a year since Australia’s Black Summer was etched into our history books in the soot of a burnt nation.

This year has already seen fires raging across the state’s southeast in Blackford and Luncindale, with farmers experiencing significant losses to their livestock.

State Commander for Agriculture and animal services, Mehdi Doroudi has said that livestock losses are in the thousands.

“The confirmed livestock losses to date are 6174 sheep and 11 cattle, however, we know this number will increase in coming days as assessments continue,” she said.

Preparing for a bushfire emergency has never been more important, particularly for animals who are too big to evacuate in the family car.

Here are some tips on what to do with your livestock during a bushfire emergency.

Preparation is everything

Before the season has even started practise your animal emergency plan as part of your own personal emergency survival plan.

It’s important to discuss this plan with your neighbours, friends, family and any staff that work on your property – it will make it easier to deal with your livestock in the event of a fire.

You must also ensure that all your animals can be readily identified and that you have put together an animal emergency kit that can be easily relocated with your animals if necessary.

Your bushfire survival plan should outline if you will evacuate or stay, where you can take refuge and where water access points are located.

Establishing a safe paddock

We recommend preparing a safe paddock for your livestock before the bushfire season begins. Make sure your paddock has an adequate supply of water that is not reliant on electric pumps.

A safe paddock should be large enough for livestock to move freely, have easy access for vehicles and should be well fenced.

To minimise the risk of fire damage, the safe paddock should be either irrigated to keep moisture in the ground or hard-grazed to reduce the fuel load.

It’s also important to ensure the area is not surrounded by combustible material like thick vegetation or hay stacks.

Consider having a central laneway between paddocks to assist moving stock before a fire threatens.

Identify a possible containment area where stock can be moved and fed after a fire. In addition to containing stock. This also reduces the risk of weed spread across the property following a fire.

Eliminate fuel loads

Maintaining paddocks and open areas will reduce fire fuel around your property. Slash or graze paddocks to lessen the fuel load and prevent fires from spreading.

We recommend that you reduce and remove field loads such as long grass, flammable debris, wood piles and dead trees.

Ensure all these materials are kept well away from your chemical stores, fuel storages, workshops, machinery shed, houses, fence lines and critical water points.

What to include in your animal emergency kit

We have created a sample kit which would suit animals such as horses:

✓ Feed for at least 3 days

✓ Buckets

✓ Copies of horse identification, veterinary records & proof of ownership

✓ Spare head collars with long leads (not nylon)

✓ Blankets / rugs – natural fibre

✓ Fluorescent spray paint, Livestock Marking Crayon

✓ Recorded diet for your animals

✓ Recorded dose and frequency for each medication your horse uses. Provide veterinary contact information for refills.

✓ Leave detailed instructions in several places inside your home and with a contact outside your home (eg: neighbour) – Animal ID records + photos of any stock left behind when evacuating

Farm Fire Units

The CFS website provides advice on what to do and look for when preparing your property.

If you plan to stay to fight a fire then you will need to consult with emergency services and visit The CFS website to ensure that you are in a position to do so.

Consider forming your own Farm Fire Unit to mobilise if your property comes under threat. The CFS recognises that Farm Fire Units are an essential part of the community’s response to fire. The CFS provides information for these units on safe firefighting practises.

A spray tank installed on the tray of a ute will help put out spot fires around the property. Avoid using towed units as these are less maneuverable and can jack-knife.

Stay informed

Here are some additional sources to ensure you are equipped to deal with a worse case scenario. We encourage everyone to make their own bushfire survival plan. Have a safe summer.

Department of Primary Industry and Region’s livestock advice for bushfires

Livestock SA’s recommendations for bushfire season

CFS tips on pets and livestock

CFS information on Farm Fire Units

CFA Victoria’s livestock fire prevention management

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