The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture 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 livestock farmers to take swift action to ensure that food and water are available for their animals during 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 for 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 are excellent protein sources for animals. Adequate protein in feed will result in better overall health; corn alone is not sufficient.
It is important to spend money wisely on much-needed protein and read product labels to ensure adequate nutrition. If needed, VIDA has feed stocked for a variety of animals, which can supplement feed purchases and is available for purchase on all three islands.
Finally, VIDA reminds farmers to protect pastures and fencing. Remove animals before the grass is killed by overgrazing because taking good care of pastures now allows the farmer/ livestock owner to use them for longer periods and can reduce feed bills in the future. Securing fencing is also important as, during the dry season, animals may break down fences 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.
For more information on preparing for the dry weather, contact VIDA’s Veterinary Services teams on St. Croix at 642-7320 or St. Thomas at 774-5182 or St. John at 423-9022.