Victorian primary producers are more aware than most, particularly after the devastating 2019/20 bushfires, of the importance of being prepared and having a plan in place for their livestock.
Effects include damaged fencing and other infrastructure, facilities and supplementary feed stores, burnt pastures and the devastating loss of thousands of sheep and cattle.
Producers were also required to move around 160,000 head of livestock to alternative locations across Victoria and interstate urgently both prior to, during and post the bushfires.
Now is the time for livestock owners to get prepared and have a clear strategy to apply in the possibility of a fire emergency on their farm.
A key factor in minimising the threat to livestock during a bushfire or on extreme fire danger days, is to identify safer areas on-farm to which livestock can be moved.
The area you choose will depend on the type of livestock and their expected behaviour during a bushfire.
To reduce potential injury and death to livestock you should consider relocating stock to designated low risk areas during days of high fire danger and Total Fire Bans. Low risk areas include:
- ploughed paddocks, areas cultivated and kept free of combustible vegetation
- bared-out paddocks, provided they are well defended by fire breaks
- irrigated paddocks or paddocks containing green summer crops (green feed does not burn easily)
- stockyards that can be wet in advance. However, the yards must be well defended as the fire front passes.
All low risk areas should have sufficient drinking water to enable stock to remain in the area for extended periods of high fire risk and high temperatures, be protected by firebreaks and be free of leaf, twig and bark build-up.
Areas where there are dams and swamps are another possible option.
For more information in regard to stock containment areas for emergencies go to www.go.vic.gov.au/Ex53E4
Stockyards have been known to successfully hold livestock during a bushfire, if protected by a firebreak.
If this is your preferred option, consider using a sprinkler system; similar to stock being held together on a hot day, they can suffer heat stress.
Horses should not be locked up in small areas or stables but moved to an open paddock with minimal vegetation, so they can move freely.
Horses are good at moving themselves to safe open areas and usually suffer minimal burns if left to do so.
If equipment such as rugs, halters and flyveils remain on horses, the plastic may melt, and metal buckles can burn the animal.
Therefore consider using rope halters for easier handling and management.
It's crucial not to open gates that allow stock access to public roadways, as any animals will be a hazard to traffic in smoky conditions.
On days of extreme fire danger or on the day before, stock should be moved into lower risk areas on-farm, or to a safer property.
Agriculture Victoria advises livestock owners to act early and not get caught trying to move stock as a bushfire approaches, listen to weather forecasts and observe your own environment to help you decide when to put your plan into action.
For further assistance on preparing a farm and livestock bushfire plan go to agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/emergencies or contact the Agriculture Victoria Customer Service Centre on 136 186.