May 19, 2020, US Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDA) is urging livestock and horse owners to prepare their animals for an extended dry period this year. Due to concerns for advancing dry weather, livestock and horse owners should begin to implement steps now to reduce harmful effects to their animals. Commissioner, Positive T. A. Nelson is additionally 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 at risk 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 to stay hydrated. Salt and molasses can help to balance nutritional needs during dry weather. 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.”

Dr. Bradford 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.

VIDA additionally reminds farmers to protect pastures and alternate/remove animals before the grass is killed by overgrazing. Taking good care of your pastures now, allows you to use them for longer periods of time and can reduce your feed bill in the future.

Additionally, livestock and horse owners need to ensure fences are in good shape to keep animals in. During the dry season, animals will break down fences in order to find food and will wander on to roads and into yards and other farms causing crop damage and possibly vehicle accidents.

For more information on preparing for the dry weather contact the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services St. Croix 778-0997, St. Thomas 774-5182, or St. John 776-6274.