Summer is upon us, which for Floridians also means hurricane season and uncertain weather. Caring for livestock in the event of a major storm can be stressful and unnerving, but having a plan will save some anxiety and you will feel prepared should a hurricane make landfall near you. Let’s discuss some of the preparation that should be done before a storm. The first tip would be to assess your location and farm conditions and decide how severe a storm needs to be before you will evacuate with your animals.
- Vaccinations and Current Paperwork: Before a hurricane or bad storm you should be sure your horses are up to date on vaccinations; particularly tetanus, West Nile, Eastern and Western Encephalitis. Following extreme rain events the mosquitoes are worse than usual and the threat of arboviruses increases. Each horse should have current negative coggins should you need to travel or evacuate and a health certificate should accompany each livestock animal in case you must cross state lines.
- Animal ID: Identification of animals, particularly horses, is important. Prior to a storm be sure each horse has at least one identifier on them such as: a leather halter with your name and information in a waterproof bag secured to the halter, a luggage tag with your information braided into the mane or tail, or a phone number shaved or marked on your horse’s body. Take identifying photos of your animals to have on hand in case you must prove ownership prior to receiving animals that are found after a storm.
- Feed & Water: Have a water and feed supply for each animal for at minimum 7 days. For horses, this equates to 12-20 gallons of water per animal per day. A recommendation is to fill all water troughs and buckets before a storm along with lined trash cans or 55 gallon barrels. If you have a generator to run your well, you may still want to have a backup supply. Keep chlorine bleach handy to purify water if needed. Be sure all feed and hay is stored in a dry environment or in watertight containers.
- First-aid Kit: This is a good time to take inventory of your equine first-aid kit. Should your animals sustain minor injuries as the effect of a hurricane, the chances of a veterinarian getting to you timely may be slim. Some common items to keep close are: leg wraps and bandages, antiseptics, topical antibiotic or wound ointment, bute, banamine, a flashlight, thermometer, knife, extra halters and lead ropes, fly spray, etc.
- Farm Tools: Some minimal tools should be on hand prior to a hurricane in case you need to mend fences after the storm. A non-exhaustive list might include: chain saw and fuel, hammer and nails, wire cutters, drill and screws, a fire extinguisher, and always duct tape!
- Horses in or Out?: Asses your property for loose items that may become debris during high wind storms and secure them. Check all fences and decide to keep your horses out during the storm if your barn or shelter is not to be trusted under hurricane-force winds. A horse is safer to fend for themselves in an open pasture rather than a barn that is not built for high winds and chance the structure collapsing. Park all equipment, vehicles, or trailers in an open area away from trees or falling debris. If you intend to evacuate make sure you fully inspect your truck and trailer for hauling long distances.
- Evacuation: If you decide evacuation is best for you and your animals know ahead of time where your large animal shelters are and make sure you have the capacity to take all of your animals. Contact the shelter prior to showing up to ensure there is room for you. Leave when recommended, at least 48 hours before winds begin. Double check that you have all essential paperwork for your animals to travel and map out the route you will travel to plan for fuel and other necessities.
Now is the time to become prepared if you are new to Florida or have never had a hurricane plan before. It is much easier to execute a well thought out plan than come up with a plan in a time of crisis. Stay connected, use your common sense, and above all always prioritize your personal safety.