Livestock and fireworks just don't mix...
Maybe this post will help people understand a little bit about what happens here, what happens to the animals and the detrimental effects of setting off fireworks around livestock.
Our area in the Acreage/ Loxahatchee is a prime location for setting off fireworks. Every street has that one person who spends a bunch on the loudest, biggest, brightest fireworks. The problem though is they don't take the animals into consideration...This is a problem for people with livestock.
One of the things we all know about our dogs is that their hearing is so much more discerning then ours. Livestock are the same. The dogs can be brought in the house, livestock can't... I can't bring my goats, horses, pigs in. Dogs can be prescribed medicine to calm them. Livestock can't. Even if there is something on the market that is OK to give food animals, great, but when you have 30 of them? Costly. Livestock don't get used to it. I see that the older they get the worse their reaction to it is. Older animals and young stock are the most concerning. Events like this can scare them to death.
Here is what I do on the afternoon of July 4. I grab all the milkers and lock them in a stall after I've milked 4 hours early - my second milking is around 10 pm so, its done early that day. I move the horse to the full half acre paddock. She runs and panics. More room for her, the less she can hurt herself. I can't put her in the stall with the goats as she kicks, bucks, and generally makes the goats worse, and can hurt them. The pig, bucks, and kids go in to the chicken coop, they get locked in at dusk, if i can catch them before the fireworks start. I have to wait till all the chickens go to roost for the evening. And then we wait... for the onslaught of noise, lights, etc.
My whole day is shot. It's a waiting game, and I never leave the farm these nights. When the fireworks start I might throw hay hoping it takes their mind off it. This depends on how many are in the stall, and level of fear starting. Herd animals don't think individually, they think as a herd. So if one starts, the others will, too. If i'm not there with them, its worse.
Every year without fail, I get hurt in some way. Every year without fail, a goat gets hurt in some way. The pony gets stressed out and loses weight. The dogs bark incessantly, get stressed out, overheat. Panic. In the house or out of the house. It doesn't matter.
And then we wait... until its over.
Here are a few things that would greatly help your fellow livestock neighbor.
(I know fireworks are going to happen, just keep us in mind, please!)
- We expect you to set them off at a certain hour. On July 4, 9 pm or 10 pm (an hour or so after dark)... or January 1, at midnight. What we don't expect is hearing them the day before, the day after, and weeks after. We don't expect them at 4 am, 10 am, and so on...
Please understand that people are riding their horses, grooming, doing daily chores and while you are setting off fireworks at noon on July 3, that noise can set off an animal and truly hurt the person, or persons NEAR it, not to mention the animal.
- We expect that you will fire them off in groups. We don't like to see that there was a giant 40 round display taking an hour or so to finish, thinking its over, go in the house, and an hour later you're at it again. No Bueno! Do it once. And don't be the neighbor that waits till everyone is done to start your display at midnight.
- When you are firing them please go UP, not into the trees, over others houses, down the street, or over paddocks. I can't tell you how many times, over the years, I am picking up used fireworks in my yard, on my house, in the paddocks. It's dangerous. Know where you are firing them and more importantly WHERE they are going to land. It is funny ...how those that fire them don't want them over their own houses.
- Have some courtesy and fire them away from those of us with livestock. If you have livestock across the street, fire them in the back yard, or side yard- furthest away from the livestock. Not on the street right in front of them. Yes, 50 yards does make a difference in sound.
- When firing off your fireworks. STOP and LISTEN after you set a few off. LISTEN and learn. My street has two farms on it. The street in front of me has 1, behind me 2....and all have livestock that panic. Stop and listen. What do you hear? You can hear mine crying, screaming, neighing, running, snorting....you might here me trying to calm them. If you hear that? have some courtesy. STOP. Last year in particular, I wasn't prepared for round 4... I finally thought it was over, it wasn't. As I was letting animals out and, one more 3 am check, another round of fireworks went off. They panicked, and I was getting trampled. You could hear me swearing 4 streets over. STOP.
If you're firing off fireworks I bet you're not really an animal caregiver or lover. Because if you saw the fear in their eyes, the scouring the next morning, the drop in weight for a week, the general distress, loss of production, or the extra work you put us thru, you wouldn't be firing them off.
- Not all animals are afraid of the lights. Pretty lights in the sky... I can lock up the worst of the fearful animals, so they can't see it. What i can't do is shield them from these fireworks that are no lights, but giant booms. If i had a say in what you could purchase, it would be lights and little booms. Just like training any animal, if they associate light, then boom, thats more manageable, they will start to expect it. It doesn't lessen fear, it does help them prepare for what is next. What i can't train them for is BOOMS without warning.
Also, livestock, particularly goats, cows, pigs, they don't remember year after year what happened last year, and comments of, 'they should be used to it'... does not apply...
- Pick up after yourself. My goodness people... after its over go find the refuse and clean up your mess. And yes, that means in the lot next to you that no one lives in. Who knows what toxic mess is in that paper refuse and now its in my paddocks, front drive, front lawn. Empty lot. Animals nibble on things all the time. I wonder how many care that the refuse can make an animal sick.
For days after the display of fireworks the farm is still suffering the after effects. Scared animals are stressed animals that can become sick animals or worse physically hurt. My milkers drop in milk every year. Without fail it takes me a week to get them back up to where they were July 1. My pig stops eating for a day or so. The horses, if not physically injured are more irritable and jumpy for days after. And the dogs. Barking at anything and everything.
I do my best to prepare for the holiday. I do enjoy properly done, well managed, not too long, (or all day /night) displays. I really wish people would pay more attention to the surrounding area, and what they do and how it affects those with livestock.
And please be safe when firing them off.
Happy Fourth of July!