Survey for beef and sheep farmers affected by 2019–20 bushfires

A new survey for sheep and beef farmers affected by the devastating 2019–20 bushfire season will help scientists develop advice and a manual to help livestock farmers recover from fires and mitigate the effect of future fire seasons.

The online survey is open to sheep and beef farmers affected by the 2019–20 bushfires. It will take around 45 minutes to complete, with questions on how the fires affected animal health, biosecurity, welfare, meat quality and farm business in the 12 months since the bushfires.

This survey is part of a research project on the health, welfare and biosecurity of livestock exposed to Australian bushfires, a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney and Ausvet Pty Ltd, and funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.

It will provide a valuable resource for future fire seasons in the form of a ‘Livestock Wellbeing Bushfire Preparation and Recovery Manual’ for producers. This will fill an important gap by providing best-practice recommendations for stock exposed to Australian bushfire conditions.

Project co-leader Dr Caitlin Pfeiffer, Lecturer in Veterinary Epidemiology (One Health) at the University of Melbourne, says advice developed from responses to the survey will feed back into the industry.

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Multiple bushfires burning across Australia’s east coast on 12 November 2019. Plumes of smoke can be seen drifting east over the Tasman Sea. Photo: The European Space Agency, Flickr.

“The 2019–20 bushfire season was especially devastating, with over 24 million hectares burnt, including a lot of farmland,” Dr Pfeiffer says.

“Along with human lives lost, deaths and disruption of livestock and damage to land and property, livestock may have experienced respiratory damage from smoke inhalation and other health and welfare impacts that affect growth, breeding and meat quality.

“This survey and this project will help the industry understand the impact of these bushfire consequences in the 12 months following the fires. What we learn in this survey from the experiences of recently burnt farms will help farmers to better prepare for and recover from future bushfires, through a bushfire preparation and recovery manual focussed specifically on livestock.”

The project team includes veterinarians, animal welfare scientists, epidemiologists and meat scientists, and the team will consult with a range of other experts to develop practical and specific advice for farmers backed by scientific evidence and the experience of livestock producers.

Take the survey

Banner image: A herd of sheep shrouded in smoke from bushfires in rural Victoria, 3 January 2020. Photo: Beverley Van Praagh, Adobe Stock.

Media enquiries: Stuart Winthrope, stuart.winthrope@unimelb.edu.au.