Animals including livestock generally tolerate smoke and ash fallout from bushfires well, however some animals, particularly cats, dogs and horses, may exhibit minor respiratory problems or eye irritation.
In areas where there are ongoing serious smoke impacts, livestock owners may want to consider relocating their animals, depending on advice from emergency services.
The respiratory symptoms observed are usually increased coughing or increased breathing rates due to minor irritation of the animal’s airways.
Excessive tear production is an indicator of eye irritation.
Ash fallout, depending on quantity, may impact on the palatability of pasture. If possible livestock should be placed on pastures that have the lowest ash burden. If this is not an option then in order to maintain production, producers may have to increase bail feeding or feed out more good quality hay or silage.
Agistment may also be an option for cattle and sheep farmers, and horse owners.
Every property and species is different and the levels of smoke and ash exposure will vary from day to day depending on the prevailing wind.
Veterinary advice should be sought if animal owners are concerned that their animals are being affected by smoke or ash.
Fire is a natural part of the Victorian environment and livestock are from time to time exposed to bush and grass fires and the associated smoke, ash and embers.
The impact is typically short term and associated with the inhalation of smoke and ash during periods of intense exposure. For animals that have not been burnt, there are typically no long term affects.
There are no known issues from a food safety perspective associated with the exposure of livestock to smoke and ash during bush and grass fires.
Farmers with injured livestock should report it to Agriculture Victoria on 1800 226 226 so that our animal health staff can assess the livestock. If you have injured pets, please seek advice immediately from your local vet.