Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stock safety during bushfire

Stock refuges can save farmers crippling restocking costs, years of heartache for pet owners and prevent terrible suffering for hundreds of thousands of animals.

Planning a stock refuge
For best safety, a stock refuge should be on leeward side of the property and in the inner zone of protection. (See Chapter  A protective property layout.) Discuss how and where to create a stock refuge, the best time to herd stock into it. (See Chapter What to do when bushfire threatens) and appoint an emergency musterer. On a mild day, practice herding the stock to it. Get them used to it.

Stock refuge suggestions
·        Ploughed land.
·        A well eaten-out paddock.
·        Paddock planted with a green summer crop such as lucerne..
·        Concrete milking sheds or stables.
·        A nearby green, sheltered open space such as golf links or recreation grounds.
·        Heavily grazed lanes - not tree-lined.
·        Boomerang-shaped dams with soil scooped up on at least two windward sides.
Ø      This gives stock a radiant heat shield, water, and shelter. 

Stock refuges need

·        Firebreaks at least 6 m wide on the usual firewind sides.
·        Hedges as wind/firebreak/radiation shields on at least two windward sides.
·        Water in heat resistant containers.
·        Shade.
·        Enough space to hold all stock. 

Stock refuge tips

·        Clear straw and other flammables from milking sheds or stables.
·        Clear flammable vegetation from earth mounds and trench rims.
·    Fit property with internal gates that can be opened for animals to move to safety

The unfortunate cow in the foreground met this fate because it was in a flammable paddock when bushfire struck.  
The owner of those in the background had put them in a fallow paddock with shade and drinking water in an old bath.  
                                                                                (Picture Katherine E. Seppings)

Wind and firebreaks, spark screens, heat shields can minimise stock losses.

Windbreaks  Most suitable windbreaks to protect crops and grazing stock are permeable hedges such as sticky or silver wattle, with smaller plants beneath.

Spark screens Hedges can act as as multi-purpose spark screens, windbreaks, shade, firebreaks and radiation shields will shelter the animals. They are needed on at least two windward sides 
Firebreaks Firebreaks need to be at least 6 metres wide and on the fireward side of the refuge. 

Metal pickets stood at Strathewen on Black Saturday, 2009
                                               Picture (c) Katherine Seppings

Stone fences around paddocks can stop crop and grassfires. 

Metal drops (star pickets) won’t burn and collapse.
Ø      Auxiliary metal drops stayed upright and intact through the Black Saturday fires.
 Metal flywire between the lower wire and ground can hinder the spread of grass fire.
Fire stopped at this stone fence.
intact concrete and metal drop fence in foreground 
 (Picture Katherine E. Seppings)