HONOLULU – The recent increased volcanic activity at 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. HDOA veterinarians have visited ranches in Ka’u and other parts of the Big Island and have not observed problems related to the volcanic activity at this time.
HDOA is advising livestock owners in areas downwind of the volcano to closely monitor the health of their livestock and report any abnormal observations to HDOA veterinarians at
974-6503 (Hilo), 887-6059 (Kamuela) or (808) 483-7106 (Honolulu) or to their private veterinarians. Livestock owners should be on the look out for eye irritations, weakness, abnormal behaviors, difficult breathing or any other abnormalities in their livestock. Also, the livestock’s ability to withstand working and movement may be compromised therefore livestock handling should be done judiciously to prevent added stress due to abnormal air quality.
Livestock owners should also ensure that an adequate supply of clean water is available at all times. A protected water supply is strongly advised. Ranchers should also increase monitoring of watering troughs and cleaning of drinking troughs in the event that ash fall out is experienced in the area.
In addition, livestock owners are advised to consult with their veterinarians regarding mineral supplementation, particularly due to the higher than normal sulfur dioxide levels that have been occurring. Sulfur dioxide in the volcanic emissions may deplete livestock of selenium, copper, other minerals and vitamins essential for animal health.
In some volcanic regions, fluorine toxicity in ash covering grazing pastures is a concern. Consumption of high levels of fluorine may be fatal to livestock. Preliminary results from ash studies by the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) identified fluorine in the ash; however, the distribution of ash has been limited and ash production is declining. HVO remains interested in reports of ash accumulation in field areas.
Ash fall can have serious detrimental effects on agricultural crops depending on ash thickness, the type and 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.