A key factor in minimising risk to stock during a bush fire is to identify safer areas on the farm where livestock can be moved.
The area you choose will depend on the type of livestock you are farming and their expected behaviour during a fire.
Other factors to consider include the terrain and accessibility of the area as well as the behaviour of the fire itself. Having a livestock fire plan that has been carefully thought through and can be quickly executed will ensure the risk to stock is minimised.
Examples of safe areas include paddocks with green summer crops or lucerne, bare paddocks with no dry feed or a ploughed paddock. Do not allow stock on to public roadways, as in smoky conditions they will be a hazard to people driving.
On days of extreme fire danger or when there is a fire alert in your district, stock should be moved into these lower risk areas. Aim to act early and don’t get caught trying to move stock as a fire approaches as radiant heat can kill.
You should also listen to weather forecasts and observe your own environment to help you decide when to put your plan into action.
Having a firebreak of some sort is imperative; bare laneways and ploughed breaks can be effective, as can heavily grazed paddocks with low-level vegetation.
Horses should not be confined in small areas or stables, but be moved into a large open paddock with minimal vegetation so they can move freely. Horses are known to be capable of moving themselves to safer open ground and suffer minimal burns if left to do so.
If equipment such as rugs, halters and flyveils remain on horses the plastic may melt and buckles may cause burns. However, leaving on a halter will make it easier to manage the horse, so discretion is needed depending upon the circumstance.
For further assistance on preparing a farm and livestock bushfire plan go to www.depi.vic.gov.au/emergencies or contact DEPI on 136 186.
Article is courtesy of Dr Jeff Cave, DEPI District Veterinary Officer