The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDA) is urging livestock and horse owners to prepare their animals for the dry period this year and begin to implement steps to reduce any harmful effects to their animals. Accordingly, Commissioner Positive T. A. Nelson is encouraging “swift action to ensure that food and water are available for their animals during the dry weather.”
Dr. Bethany Bradford, director of Veterinary Services, explains that “extended dry weather presents serious health and welfare issues for animals that depend on forage and pasture. Especially affected are sheep, goats, cattle and horses who are at risk for malnutrition, disease and death when pastures dry out. Animals will need additional clean water resources to stay hydrated; salt and molasses can help to balance nutritional needs during dry weather; and supplemental nutrition will be required for pregnant, lactating and growing animals. If possible, reduce your herd to a manageable and affordable size for the amount of land that you have and feed you can provide.”
Bradford additionally advises farmers to focus on providing protein for pasture animals. Quality feed such as alfalfa cubes, rabbit pellets, fresh tan-tan and leguminous vines provide excellent protein for animals, which results in better overall health. In these difficult times, it is important to spend money wisely on much needed protein and read product labels to ensure adequate nutrition.
As a reminder, during the dry season, animals will break down fences in order to find food and can wander into yards, roads or farms and cause property damage or vehicle accidents. Please ensure fences are in good shape to keep animals in.
Finally, the V.I. Department of Agriculture reminds farmers to protect pastures and alternate or remove animals before the grass is killed by overgrazing. Taking good care of your pastures now allows a farmer to use them for longer periods of time and can reduce feed bills in the future.
For more information on preparing for the dry weather, contact the VIDA’s Veterinary Services teams on St. Croix at 642-7320 or St. Thomas at 774-5182 or St. John at 423-9022.