Check livestock, pets and animals

Floods can bring a range of animal health problems, from food shortage and plant toxicity to dehydration, infection and disease.

Livestock

Agriculture Victoria provides assistance to landholders and communities with animal welfare-related issues resulting from floods. This includes agricultural impact assessments.

As defined in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1986), the person ‘in charge’ of an animal has primary responsibility (duty of care) to ensure it is protected from unreasonable pain or suffering.

It is acknowledged that in the event of an emergency, standards of animal care may be compromised. Those in charge of animals may have to relocate quickly, potentially leaving animals behind, and may be restricted in their ability to care for animals.

For this reason, the underpinning principle in addressing animal welfare for managed animals in an emergency is for those in charge to take pre-emptive action by planning for animal needs, implementing these plans and taking action early so that welfare problems can be avoided or minimised.

Humane destruction of injured livestock

Note: Landowners do not need to wait for Agriculture Victoria staff to visit to euthanise impacted livestock if they are confident they can do so humanely and safely.

It is the responsibility of the person in charge of animals to arrange for the humane destruction or salvage slaughter of emergency affected animals where the animals will continue to suffer if they remain alive, or where the animals have little or no chance of survival. Methods of destruction of animals must be humane.

Agriculture Victoria will assist as required in the humane destruction or salvage slaughter of managed animals when the person in charge cannot or will not perform the necessary actions to alleviate the suffering of their animals.

Disposing of carcasses

Bushfire, flood and drought may result in large numbers of animal carcasses requiring disposal.

The timing of animal carcass disposal is critical since any delay not only poses a risk to human health and the environment, but also the morale of emergency personnel and the affected community. It is critical that approved methods of carcass disposal are utilised and procedures are followed to minimise inherent risks of disposal, including biosecurity, environmental contamination or the spread of disease.

The Emergency Management Manual Victoria (EMMV) (Part 7) identifies the various agencies and their responsibilities related to carcass disposal.

Your local council coordinates clean-up activities, including the disposal of dead animals domestic, native and feral). To find your local council details, visit your local council.

Agriculture Victoria provides advice on the disposal needs of dead or injured animals.

A number of on-farm and off-farm options exist for the disposal of animal carcasses resulting from an emergency, including licensed landfills, knackeries and rendering facilities, high temperature incineration and on-farm burial.

See Disposing of carcasses in response to bushfires, flood or drought.

Environmental Protection Agency provides emergency approvals in line with the Environmental Protection Act (1970). For information, visit epa.vic.gov.au

Managing the health of surviving livestock

When it is safe to do so, check the health of livestock that have been standing in mud or water for extended periods. Some common health issues are listed below.

Feet: Foot problems are a concern with all livestock that have been submerged in water or have been standing on wet, muddy ground for long periods. Abscesses and other foot problems will be common where an animal's feet are constantly wet.

Parasites: Very wet seasons are also likely to produce larger than usual insect populations. Flystrike is likely to occur in sheep after being wet, especially if they have a thick wool coat. Even once the fleece dries out, problems such as fleece rot and lumpy wool will continue to attract flies and diseases spread by flies, such as pinkeye, could become more widespread.

Worm larvae survive much longer on pasture in moist conditions and parasite burdens may increase rapidly.

Bacterial diseases: Most bacteria thrive and multiply in a moist environment, so bacterial diseases can become a real problem after heavy rain. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are also likely to occur in flood-affected livestock due to stress and exposure to prolonged cold temperatures.

Mastitis: Mastitis is a problem for cross-bred ewes grazing tall grass as a result of the combined effects of udder engorgement due to lush feed, udder abrasions and flies. Vaccinating with 5-in-1 after floods is important as the sudden flush of feed make stock susceptible to pulpy kidney.

Bloat or redgut: Bloat in cattle or redgut in sheep could occur, especially on lush clover or lucerne.

For further advice please contact your local veterinarian or a departmental veterinary or Animal Health Officer.

For more information, see:

Movement of livestock impacted by flood

Under normal trading conditions, livestock owners are required to correctly identify cattle, sheep or goats with National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tags prior to the livestock leaving their property.

Livestock are required to be identified before leaving their property of birth. During emergencies such as floods, where animals may need to be moved urgently for safety, treatment or agistment, this may not always be practical or possible

For assistance with movement requirements, permits or possible exemptions contact Agriculture Victoria via:

Feeding livestock

There may be feed and water shortages and plant toxicity issues after a flood.

Pasture and crops damaged by flooding may require farmers to source alternative stockfeed for livestock over the upcoming months. If you are considering feeding failed crops to livestock, be sure to consider the chemicals that have been used on the crop, as this may limit its use as stockfeed.

Mould growth on water damaged stockfeed reduces the nutritive value and palatability of both standing and stored feed, with some mould toxicity causing death or longer-term health problems such as liver damage.

For more information, see:

Dehydration can also become a problem, with livestock often refusing to drink flood water if it is polluted or tastes different from their normal supply. It's important to watch your stock carefully to ensure they are drinking adequately.

While rain and floods may fill dams, flood waters carry silt and organic material, so it is important to be on the look-out for algal blooms in polluted dams and waterways.

Feed budget

Agriculture Victoria staff can assist with developing a feed budget that identifies the amount and quality of feed required for the number and type of stock, and also how long it is required for.

For more information, see:

Stock containment areas and agistment

Stock containment areas

See Stock containment areas for information on what to consider when establishing a stock containment area.

Agistment

You may decide to agist livestock away from flood-affected properties.

Agistment can be a cheap solution for feeding stock. Before agisting there are certain points that you should consider, and this is best done by inspecting the agistment area:

  • fencing should be secure and handling facilities available
  • there should be a good quantity of quality feed and the agistment should be close to markets, so you do not have to bring agisted stock home again.

Most agistment will be snapped up early so this decision must be made swiftly.

A widely used form of agistment is to send your stock to a commercial feedlot, particularly finishing cattle for slaughter. While expensive, this may be offset by the sale of finished cattle at a premium price.

Also see Agistment for horses.

Property identification codes (PICs)

Property Identification Codes (PICs) are essential for identifying where livestock are kept and the person who is caring for them. As well as being used to assist disease control, ensure food safety and support market access.

PICs are also used to locate properties and owners that have livestock when emergency events such as fires and floods occur.

Having an up to date PIC enables Agriculture Victoria to support impacted farmers.

If you own livestock and don’t have a PIC, or you need to update your PIC details, please call the Agriculture Victoria NLIS Helpline on 1800 678 779.

Learn more about Property Identification Codes (PICs).

Pets

The following information will help you to prepare to ensure the welfare of your pets during an emergency event such as floods.

Pets and emergencies

Failing to plan ahead for your pets’ safety during an emergency puts everyone’s lives at risk.

To find out more about what you can do to prepare you and your pets for an emergency, see Pets in emergencies.

Animals at relief centres

For information on the guidelines for managing animals and relief centres as well as pre-emergency planning with your pets, see Managing animals at relief centres.

Lost, stray and injured animals

Find out what to do if you’ve found a lost stray or injured animal. See Lost, stray and injured animals.

Wildlife

Assisting wildlife and injured native animals

During major floods, the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DELWP) works closely with experienced wildlife rescuers to help with the recovery and treatment of flood-affected wildlife and threatened species.

What if I find an injured animal?

If you find an injured native animal, the best thing you can do to help it is to contact an authorised wildlife shelter which will have the training and facilities to care for the animal.

Details of wildlife carers can be obtained by calling DELWP on 136 186 or via the DELWP website.

You may see wildlife, such as snakes, lizards and kangaroos, isolated or trapped by floodwaters. Please leave these animals alone.

What you can do:

  • Take care when driving, particularly around dawn and dusk as wildlife may be concentrated near roads following flooding.
  • Keep pet dogs and cats under control. Wildlife may be on properties following flooding and may be vulnerable to attack.
  • Keep wildlife in mind when cleaning up after a flood. Rocks and dead logs provide homes and places to search for food for many animals.

If you see a distressed animal, visit the Wildlife website or call Customer Service on 136 186.

For more information, see DELWP: Help for injured animals.

Page last updated: 27 Apr 2021