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Bushfire planning for livestock owners

Areas in the south east region have experienced a bumper spring with very high levels of plant growth. Fuel loads will potentially be the highest seen in recent years.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) works extensively with the public to communicate bushfire preparedness and the need to implement a plan in the event of bushfire.

Rural communities should also consider the safety and wellbeing of livestock in the event of a bushfire and the need to be thoroughly prepared. Livestock owners should have a livestock plan that can be implemented if fire threatens their property. 

It is important this information is communicated with family members and employees to ensure they understand what measures need to be taken when moving stock if fire comes over the hill. 

Personal safety is the first priority in all situations.

Tony Armour, a sheep producer who was severely affected by the Cobbler Road bushfire at Bookham in 2013, believes livestock and infrastructure insurance is a priority.

"You only have to be burnt once in a couple of hundred years for the cost of insurance to be covered," he said.

When planning, determine the most appropriate or low risk areas to move stock to give them the greatest chance of survival. Local knowledge of the terrain, the most likely direction of fire threat, accessibility, prevailing wind direction and the location in relation to timbered areas should be considered.

This could include, but would not be limited to:

  • Bared out paddocks – paddocks that have been heavily grazed during spring or early summer.
  • Irrigated paddocks or green summer crops – they won't burn as readily as dry feed.
  • Yards – a low risk option but do consider if any nearby trees pose a threat.
  • For horses a sand yard can be used, provided trees or buildings are at a distance.

Once low risk areas have been selected ensure the area remains prepared and available. 

The behavior of livestock is something that must be considered in terms of priority movement. District Veterinarian, Alex Stephens says that from her experience she would be least concerned about cattle as they find their own way from fire.

"Fencing can be an impediment, so boundary fences, especially those onto roads should not be cut," Alex said.

"Horses will also find their way around the edges or even gallop through flames and remain on burnt ground until fire passes."

As would be expected sheep, particularly young sheep, can be difficult to move and prefer to stay in the mob situation. If the potential for fire exists they should be moved first and early. During the Cobbler Road fire Tony Armour noticed sheep in hilly paddocks with a clear stock camp did fare reasonably well.

Working dogs should also be catered for by ensuring grass is mown adjacent to kennels.

As soon as you become aware of a fire in your area put your bushfire plan into action.

For further information about protecting your livestock from bushfire contact South East Local Land Services, Yass on 02 6226 1155.

Media contacts:

Chris Harris
Senior Biosecurity Officer 
South East Local Land Services 
Telephone: 02 6226 1155 

Debra Thompson
Senior Land Services Officer (Communications)
South East Local Land Services
Telephone: 02 4224 9707