Fire impact on animal health

02 Apr, 2018 10:03 AM
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SMOKE: Livestock owners were advised to move livestock away from the active peat fire once it was safe, and to seek veterinary advice if they are concerned.
the biggest challenge was the long-term damage to cow teats, in particular, on heifers.
SMOKE: Livestock owners were advised to move livestock away from the active peat fire once it was safe, and to seek veterinary advice if they are concerned.

The four fires in South West Victoria, starting on March 17, saw total livestock losses of around 3000 head.

In total, around 800 dairy cattle, 200 beef cattle and 2000 sheep died as a direct result of the fires or were euthanised because of injury.

Dr David Champness, Incident Controller, said assessments had been carried out at all properties with affected stock across the four fires.

Where necessary, properties would be followed up further.

Dr Champness said dairyfarmers needed to assess stock for damage to teats from the grass fires.

Vet Group farm advisor, Simpson, Chris Hibburt, said the biggest challenge was the long-term damage to cow teats, in particular, on heifers.

Mr Hibburt said one of the lessons from the Ash Wednesday fires was the need to assess damage to teats as early as possible and decide which stock needed to be euthanised.

He said farmers were already hand feeding stock because of the long dry period leading up to the fires.

Victoria’s Chief Veterinary Officer Charles Milne said livestock were resilient to smoke including carbon monoxide and ash fallout from fires.

Dr Milne said fire was a natural part of the environment, so it was likely livestock had been exposed to smoke, ash and embers before.

“The impact is typically short term and associated with the inhalation of smoke and ash during periods of intense exposure,” Dr Milne said.

“For animals that have not been burnt, there are typically no long-term effects for health and food production,” he said.

Dr Milne warned pets such as dogs, cats and horses were more susceptible to peat fire impacts.

For livestock, open-air paddocks will reduce the build-up of gasses and their impact, but every property and species are different, so the levels of smoke exposure will vary depending on the day and wind conditions in the area.

“When it is safe, move your livestock away from the active peat fire,” he said.

“Animal owners should seek veterinary advice if they are concerned that their animals are being affected by smoke or ash.”

For more information about the conditions, resources and support, visit Agriculture Victoria’s website at www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/firerecovery.

StockLand

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