By Shelby Brooks
BERRYS Creek CFA captain and dairy farmer Dannielle O’Loughlin has urged farmers to have a livestock plan during high-risk fire days.
Dannielle, who has been the brigade captain for 14 years, was deployed three times to the East Gippsland bushfires last summer and saw firsthand the need to have appropriate measures in place for pets, animals and livestock.
“Plans are very individual and what people find as a priority over other people can be very different,” Dannielle said.
“People do need to have a good plan in place and really think about what they are going to do.
“The CFA has some really good online templates and a lot of media releases about what can be done and what things you need to think about.
“Within the CFA there are a lot of volunteers that are trained and can actually go through and talk to people and give them some scenarios and help them think about their plans.”
Dannielle has a very detailed plan in place for her own farm, which involves staying and defending the property.
“Our dairy cows are our main source of income so protecting our herd of cows is a big priority for us and we are fortunate that we have really good river flats here at Berrys Creek,” she said.
“Our plan is to put the cows down on the river flats so then they have ample water and we have a generator that runs our cow shed and that is always put on a tractor ready to go.
“As far as horses go, they would be yarded while watching conditions via the Vic Emergency App… so if we had the chance, we would move them to the safety of the sale yards at Koonwarra but if we didn’t have a chance, they would be un-rugged and let go down with the cows.
“Dogs and cats would be caged and ideally moved to safety.” Dannielle has a number of homemade firefighting appliances she has ready to use if need be.
“We have a ute set up with a 1000 litre cube on it with a petrol pump on the back so we can do spot fires, a 400L spray tank on back of the second tractor and another 400L water cart that goes on back of the four-wheeler,” she said.
“If you’re a hobby farm with a few animals, evacuation early is certainly the way to go but having back-up plans in case you get caught is important.”
Dannielle also recommends when moving animals to make sure they are marked in case they get out.
“Horses can be microchipped the same as dog and cats… if you got into an emergency situation you can write your phone number in cow tail paint on the side of the horse or on their hooves in texta before you let them go down the paddock in case you lost your boundary fences,” she said.
“Ideally you want to leave them naked, no head stall, lead rope or rugs because they are all made out of nylon, so they are not safe to leave on them.”
Head to cfa.vic.gov.au or contact your local fire brigade for advice on fire safety plans.