The recent increased volcanic activity of Kilauea’s Halemaumau Crater has not only caused concern for human health and safety, but also for various sectors of agriculture, including the livestock, food crop and nursery industries.
Currently, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has not received any reports of animal illnesses or problems due to the recent volcanic activity at Kilauea. An HDOA veterinarian did visit two ranches in the Ka`u area this week and did not observe any problems related to the volcanic activity.
HDOA is advising ranchers in areas downwind of the volcano to closely monitor the health of their livestock and report any observations to HDOA as soon as possible at 974-6503 (Hilo) or (808) 483-7106 (Honolulu). Ranchers should be on the look out for eye infections and gastrointestinal and respiratory problems in livestock. Also, the livestock’s ability to withstand being moved across distances and handled may be reduced due to abnormal air quality.
Ranchers should also ensure that an adequate supply of clean water is available. A protected water supply is strongly advised. Ranchers should also increase monitoring of watering troughs and cleaning of drinking vessels according to the degree of ash fall experienced in the area.
In addition, ranchers are advised to consult with their veterinarians regarding mineral supplements, particularly due to the higher than normal sulfur levels that may be expected with ash fall. Sulfur dioxide in the volcanic emissions may deplete livestock of selenium and other minerals essential to animal health.
Although heavy ash fall has not occurred on Big Island ranches to date, fluorine toxicity could occur if livestock feed on ash-covered pastures. If heavy ash fall does occur, supplemental feed should be considered as well as possible transport out of the affected region.
Ash fall can have serious detrimental effects on agricultural crops depending on ash thickness, the type of growing condition of a crop and timing and intensity of subsequent rainfall. There is little that can be done to protect field crops from ash fall. Harvested crops should be thoroughly washed prior to consumption.
Overhead irrigation of greenhouse nursery stock may be helpful to wash away ash and residue and minimize chemical damage to flowers and foliage.
Dr. Jason Moniz
Livestock Disease Control Veterinarian
Dr. James Foppoli
Sandra Lee Kunimoto
Public Information Officer