Changes to farm management after fire
After a fire, your farm and business plan for the following months will need to be adapted. Your new plan should accommodate the changes you will need to make to animal management resulting from:
- supplementary feeding, agisting or selling stock
- loss of yards, equipment or labour for usual animal management
- animals returning to the farm after agistment or straying
- new animals being brought onto the farm
- animals being sold at unusual times of year.
- Watch for disease in animals returning from agistment. In cattle these include pestivirus, bovine anaemia (theileriosis), bovine Johne’s disease (BJD), liver fluke and vibriosis. Diseases to watch for in sheep include ovine Johne’s disease (OJD), footrot, lice and parasites including drench-resistant worms.
- Drench animals on return with a ‘quarantine’ drench to avoid introducing new drench-resistant worms to the property, using no fewer than four drench actives for sheep.
- Confine returned animals to specific paddocks for a ‘quarantine’ period before allowing them to mix with other animals. This will also reduce the area affected if weed seeds are present on skin, in wool or in faeces. The appropriate period varies but is at least 14 days for cattle and longer in sheep; for sheep at risk of footrot and lice, quarantine should continue until a good spring has occurred (footrot) and shearing is complete (lice).
Buying in stock
Purchasing new stock after fire is often necessary. Take care if buying stock from other regions, as diseases such as theileriosis can be disastrous for animals that are not adapted to the local conditions. Seek animal health declarations prior to purchase to reduce the risk of introducing health problems.
Apply farm biosecurity practices: confine newly purchased animals to specific paddocks for a ‘quarantine’ period, drench them on arrival with a suitable ‘quarantine’ drench and monitor for any unusual signs of disease. Buying sheep off-shears can help reduce the risk of introducing weed seeds.
Routine animal management activities may be disrupted due to fire damage to facilities such as yards, shearing sheds or equipment. You may need to delay these activities, use a neighbour’s yards or erect temporary yards. Consider the risk of spreading or acquiring diseases if using a neighbour’s facilities.
The extra work of fire recovery can restrict the availability of labour for working with your livestock. This is often a major constraint during recovery after a fire and can last for many months.
Identify which activities are critical for getting the farm business back on track and which can be delayed or skipped without compromising animal welfare, taking into account additional costs or opportunity loss if actions are delayed. Make a list of priority activities with a required date of completion for each one and another list of non-priority activities with the target time of year to reschedule each one. Be realistic, seek help and get additional labour when you can.
- weighing and drafting
- sales and loading
- jetting for fly control (if relevant)
- joining and AI programs
- shearing (if relevant).
If shearing after fire, a break in the wool may occur due to the general stress of the fire and changes in feed.