First steps in land management response
During an emergency bushfire period and the aftermath, livestock can be assessed with the help of PIRSA, SAVEM or a similar service. For animal owners seeking urgent assistance and information, call PIRSA‘s 24-hour hotline: 1800 255 556.
Managing burnt ground
To reduce the risk of water and wind erosion, limit traffic from livestock, vehicles and people where possible.
Burnt ground is likely to have a thin, fragile crust on the surface. It’s ideal to keep this top crust intact, as the organic matter within the soil profile will have also been burnt, leaving the soil underneath quite friable.
The impact to vegetation, horticulture, viticulture and pasture depends on the intensity of the burn – and this may vary across the fire scar. If there is still visible pasture that is singed, then try a light irrigation and watch how the pasture and soil respond.
After fire, the soil surface may become water repellent. This limits the ability of soil to soak up water, and can increase run-off and the risk of soil erosion. A wetting agent can be used to improve soil wettability, but the situation is likely to improve naturally with time, rainfall and pasture regrowth. Where practical, compost can be applied to act as a mulch to help protect the soil surface.
Start somewhere, start small. Start trialling options for your property with manageable amounts, and read the ground with how it is responding. If you’d like to speak with someone about support options or advice, please contact our staff. We can also come out to your property.
Keep stock contained
Get livestock off the burnt ground and into containment areas. Bringing them together means that you can keep an easy, close eye on all of them, in case injuries and impacts from the fire start to show up. It also means the animal is not stressed by walking distances between food, water, shelter and shade.
You are also likely to be feeding out to livestock with limited or no other feed available. Containment areas will make this much easier with managing your labour, distances travelled and preserving that burnt land.
In feeding donated bales, there is an increased biosecurity risk of weed seeds in the hay. While all precautions are taken by donors, feeding stock in containment areas will also contain any weed seeds and limit spreading throughout your property.
This fact sheet on containment areas provides information on design, size and stocking rates.
Raise their feed
After fire, ash ingestion can cause health problems for livestock, so where possible, move stock on to unburnt ground. When setting up containment areas, it is best practice to have hay or other feed sources off the ground. Look at using a trough, a feeder device, or even a hard-surfaced area for feeding. This also reduces the likelihood of livestock ingesting any ash that might be present.
Monitor livestock condition
Some impacts present long after the fire has gone through, so keep a close eye on all animals and have your vet visit regularly for check-ups.
- Managing livestock after fires – some comments and experiences from Dr Jeremy Rogers, PIRSA Senior Veterinary Office
- Assessing cattle after a bushfire – Agriculture Victoria
- Animals and natural disasters – information and links from Australian Veterinary Association
Calculate supplementary feed
Supplementary feeding will be necessary to ensure animals are kept in good health. A local livestock specialist can help you calculate how much supplementary feed your stock might need.
It’s also important to understand what type of feed might be best, the cost and labour involved, and that supplementary feeding may need to continue into the middle of the year.
Agist or sell
As you go through this process, assess whether you will keep your livestock or whether it is time to agist or sell. If you choose to sell, contact your local livestock agent for assistance.