Like many of my colleagues I have visited numerous fire affected properties in eastern NSW over the past three months.
One of our tasks has been to speak to affected landholders to inform them of the assistance that the NSW government and other agencies provide.
As we all know, these fires have been devastating, with loss of life and property.
Fortunately, as I have mentioned previously, in many areas, stock losses have been less than expected in part because people have had warning.
Many producers are carrying less or no stock because of the drought.
Also, many have minimal pastures, therefore providing little fuel for fires.
Most importantly, for affected livestock owners, there is a hotline for all agricultural and animal services.
You can access the hotline by calling 1800 814 647.
Producers are encouraged to call the hotline to report damage and stock losses, as well as request assistance.
Fire affected people are eligible for emergency fodder for up to three days and emergency stock water if there is an immediate animal welfare issue.
Local Land Services district veterinarians and biosecurity officers can also assist with assessing burned livestock (and wildlife) and together with the owner, deciding if euthanasia is best or if treatment is an option.
In many cases we opt for euthanasia because animals are in pain and treatment will be protracted with ongoing distress.
We usually elect to euthanase animals that are dull, distressed, with burns or respiratory tract damage.
We also know that in many burn cases, animals will deteriorate before they recover.
In the unfortunate situation where livestock have to be euthanased, assistance can also be provided to dispose of the carcases (usually by burial).
Sheep and cattle that appear relatively unscathed may suffer burns to the feet, which can cause separation of the hoof from the tissue below it.
This condition can develop over several days to a week and may not be immediately obvious.
This is why we pay close attention to the feet of burned animals and request that owners continue to check stock that may initially have seemed fine.
Many veterinarians will have discussed treatment options with livestock owners.
Fortunately, private veterinarians have a wide range of treatment and pain relief options that can assist recovering animals.
However, we also know that treatment can be prolonged and require time and good nursing.
Not everyone is up for this, especially if their property has sustained substantial fire damage.
The forecast for rain is as encouraging as we have seen for ages.
Let's hope that we receive plenty of gentle rain with follow-up.
Storm rain, while welcome, has sometimes washed manure and the remains of the groundcover into dams.
This rubbish decomposes and turns the water foul.
I am no expert either on the prevention or treatment of this, but I would like to warn producers that it can be serious.
Prevention options include filtering the runoff perhaps through rock or gravel banks and in the long term, planning fenced off grassed waterways.
I can discuss treatment options in the future if necessary (after I have done some more research).
Please feel free to call me at the Bathurst Local Land Services office (6333 2300) if you have any experience dealing with this problem.
- Bruce Watt is a Local Land Services veterinarian at Bathurst.