Land, livestock and pasture care after fire
Livestock welfare after fire can come with difficult decisions for the owner. Veterinary care may be required, as well as access to clean water, suitable fodder and shade (if possible). If these cannot be provided, then livestock should be agisted or sold. Landholders should discuss agistment and selling options with their livestock agents.
After fire, ash ingestion can also cause health problems for livestock. Wherever possible, remove livestock from burnt ground. Using a stock containment area is encouraged. If this is not possible, hay, grain and other animal feed should be placed off burnt ground (e.g. using a trough, a feeder device, or a hard-surfaced area).
Bushfire recovery and your farm – you can read this overview of information on production, infrastructure and land management.
Managing erosion and livestock with containment
Many issues associated with land and livestock management after fire, such as soil erosion, water quality and livestock health, can be resolved by using a temporary stock containment area.
A stock containment area is a carefully selected, small, fenced section of the property that is set up to intensively hold, feed and water livestock to:
- minimise soil disturbance and erosion risk when ground cover levels are low
- protect water quality and minimise ash and sediment entry into dams and waterways
- allow pastures to adequately establish or recover
- minimise the risk of spreading weeds that may be present in hay
- maintain animal health and condition
- reduce demand on labour during adverse times and seasons.
More on containment:
Issues with rain post fire
Rainfall across fire-affected properties will promote regrowth of perennial pasture species (where present) and also produce a germination of annual species. However, landholders should consider controlled grazing and the use of stock containment areas to allow pastures and ground cover the time to adequately re-establish.
Whether perennial pasture plants are still present will depend on the intensity of the fire.
Livestock will chase new green feed when allowed on to land with newly emerged pasture plant seedlings. This will affect pasture recovery, soil cover and the risk of erosion.
Livestock also lose condition when constantly moving and eating newly emerged green feed of low energy and nutritional value.
Take a look at confinement feeding of stock to reduce the energy requirements of the animals and improve the efficiency of feed use.
This can be a good time to plan for future weed control, pasture renovation and pasture management. Cereal fodder cover crops can be drilled into pasture land to more quickly provide stock feed as well as ground cover protection.
There are also a number of techniques used to manage weeds; this fact sheet helps you take into account the species, the landscape it is in and how much is present.
If you would like specialist advice, please contact us.
Information on these weeds, and others, can also be found on our pest plants page.
Watch this video in which District Officer Will Hannaford explains how invasive woody weeds, such as Gorse, Blackberry and Broom, respond to fire and describes different ways to control them.
Managing water quality with sediment fences
Temporary sediment fences (using star droppers, hay bales, coir logs, ring-lock fencing material, chicken wire, etc.) can be used to filter runoff and minimise sediment entry into water bodies until adequate ground cover is re-established (more information is in the ‘Bushfire recovery, erosion and water supply’ fact sheet). The design will depend on your landscape situation and likely sediment and water volumes.
When ash, organic matter and soil are washed into dams and waterways, it can cause oxygen depletion, resulting in algae or blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and possible water quality issues. While it can also foul the water, unless cyanobacteria are present, this unpleasant looking and smelling water can still be used for most livestock. See contaminated farm dams (Agriculture WA) for practical information about on-farm water quality.
Note that if sediment fences fail, erosion and sedimentation may be significantly exacerbated.
A video on building sediment fences can be viewed on the Agriculture Victoria webpage ‘Farm recovery after bushfire’.
Cutting red tape on water affecting activities
Find out what activities WILL NOT require a water affecting activity permit for sediment control within a watercourse in a bushfire-affected area in this publication: Current Recommend Practice for sediment control within a watercourse in a bushfire-affected area June 2021.
Read here for more information on water affecting activities.
These videos highlight the experiences of landholders post-fire that may assist you in dealing with your own livestock and land management situation:
- Dealing with livestock affected by the 2014 bushfires in SA – decision making and recovery
- Bushfire recovery, Charlie Crozier, Sherwood (video)
- Bushfire recovery, Glen Tilley, Tarlee (video)
- Bushfire recovery, Troy and Nette Fischer, Wasleys (video)
- Bushfire recovery, Mark Modra, Greenpatch, near Port Lincoln (video)
- Bushfire recovery, Shannon Robertson and Michaela Heinson discuss weed management after a fire (video)