Livestock safety during bushfires

Plan ahead

If you own livestock, part of preparing a Bushfire Survival Plan for your family might include preparing options for how to deal with your livestock. Planning should start well before the bushfire season and is part of on-going property management.

It is important to act well before a fire starts. Making a choice when a bushfire threatens your property is too late – ensure personal safety first.

Practicing your plans will make it easier to do if fire threatens.

See also Animal safety in emergencies

Before the bushfire season

For sheep, cattle, goats, alpacas or horses, preparing one or more ‘safe paddocks’ prior to the bushfire season is a good option.

A ‘safe’ paddock is one that:

  • has adequate water supply without relying on electric pumps
  • is easy to access, is well fenced and has adequate space
  • is either irrigated or hard grazed to reduce the fuel load and
  • is not surrounded by other combustible material like thick vegetation, tree lines or hay stacks.

If you prefer to relocate livestock (e.g. horses or animals of special value) to another property in a low risk area:

  • plan where you will go
  • understand what will trigger you to leave (e.g. high fire risk rating, emergency warning)
  • prepare an emergency kit that can go with the animal(s)
  • make an agreement with the property owner about conditions of agistment
  • know alternative routes to get there in case the main pathway becomes blocked.

Key actions:

  • review and practice your plan
  • establish ‘safe paddock(s)’ or identify the safest areas for your livestock
  • prepare an emergency kit
  • ensure your Property Identification Code (PIC) is current
  • ensure all stock are identifiable to your property PIC
  • ensure animal housing has sufficient area free of combustible material
  • if needed, establish contingencies for water, feeding, milking, ventilation should power be cut.

On high fire danger days

Key actions:

  • Enact your plan – this may be to relocate animals to a safer paddock or safer property.

During a bushfire – if a fire threatens

Key actions:

  • Enact your Bushfire Survival Plan
  • Only move livestock to ‘safe paddock(s)’ or an open space with the least vegetation if there is time, don’t leave it too late – ensure personal safety first.
  • Monitor and assess the fire’s progress through ABC radio, CFS website or Bushfire Information Hotline.

After the bushfire has passed

Key actions:

  • when it is safe, inspect livestock for burns or injuries
  • seek veterinary advice – injured animals may need to be humanely destroyed
  • enact your plan for backup water, feeding, ventilation, milking, etc. if the power has failed
  • provide surviving livestock access to good quality clean water, fodder and shelter
  • monitor livestock for several days
  • dispose of dead animals in a prompt and environmentally safe manner. Go to the EPA fact sheet - On-farm disposal of animal carcasses for instructions.

PIRSA Animal and Agricultural Services may provide assistance with affected livestock and other animals.

Page Last Reviewed: 15 Mar 2018
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