February 3, 2022, US Virgin Islands – 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 livestock farmers to take swift action to ensure that food and water are available for their animals during dry weather.
The USDA recently reported that the USVI set heat and drought records in 2021. Rainfall decreased approximately 15 inches on St. Croix and 12 inches on St. Thomas. This has significant implications and effects on pastures, forages, and livestock. Farmers must begin to adopt new management strategies to protect pastures and the health of their livestock and horses because of increasing climate change-related drought and temperatures.
Dr. Bethany Bradford, Director of Veterinary Services explains that “now is the time to reduce animal numbers, separate animals to manage breeding, stockpile hay,and protein supplements, and expand water storage. She further states, “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.”
Dr. Bradford finally 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 results in better overall health as 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 your feed purchases and available for purchase on all three islands.
VIDA reminds farmers to protect pastures and fencing. Remove animals before the grass is killed by overgrazing as taking good care of your pastures now, allows you to use them for longer periods and can reduce your feed bills in the future. Securing your 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 (340) 642-7320 or St. Thomas at (340) 774-5182 or St. John at (340) 423-9022.