Advice on impacts of peat fires on livestock
Updated: 3 April 2018
Potential implications of smoke from bush, grass and peat fires on livestock
Smoke generated by bush, grass and peat fires may contain smoke and ash that will include a variety of chemicals, including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
Fire is a natural part of the Victorian environment and livestock are from time to time exposed to bush, grass and peat 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.
Read the advice provided to assist in the management of livestock in the vicinity of such fires and to minimise the effects of smoke exposure.
Effects of smoke
Livestock generally tolerate smoke (and ash) from fires relatively well; however some animals, particularly companion animals and horses, may experience respiratory problems and/or eye irritation. All animals that are exposed to significant amounts of smoke should be monitored closely for signs of distress. Respiratory symptoms, such as increased coughing or fast breathing may be due to irritation of the animal's airways. Excessive tear production or full or partial closure of the eye are indicators of eye irritation or damage.
Every property and species is different and the levels of smoke exposure will vary from day to day depending on the prevailing wind. The open-air environment of grazing enterprises is not expected to allow the buildup of gases.
However, where safe to do so, it is recommended that livestock are moved as far as practically away from the source of smoke. Horses that are in work (e.g. Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and working stock horses) should be removed where possible (or should not undertake heavy work) as their ability to meet their oxygen requirements may be compromised.
Veterinary advice should be sought if animal owners are concerned that their animals are being affected by smoke or ash. Investigations into unusual illnesses or deaths of livestock (including horses) may be eligible for subsidised veterinary investigations under the Significant Disease Investigation Program. Private veterinary practitioners are aware of this program and can liaise with Agriculture Victoria to determine if funding is available on a case by case basis.
There are no known issues from a food safety perspective associated with the exposure of livestock to smoke during bush, grass and peat fires.
Chief Veterinary Officer's Unit