There are several issues to consider when a storm is headed toward your property and having livestock adds to the complexity of preparations. High winds, torrential rains and flooding can affect livestock owners in several ways. Many preparations are a part of your regular routine. Regular maintenance of fencing and barns keep livestock safe at all times. Reinforce barns and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures. Be sure there are high areas on your property should flooding occur. All livestock owners need to keep vaccinations up-to-date to keep animals healthy during stressful times of disaster.
If you are in a known evacuation area or plan to evacuate regardless, your preparation will require advance planning. Most livestock owners will not evacuate with their livestock. However, with only a few animals some may choose to evacuate with their animals. This should only be done well in advance of a storm due to traffic concerns and stress on the animals. Be sure to identify 1 or 2 geographically different areas (with friends or family) where you can evacuate with your livestock. You should evacuate no later than 72 hours ahead of anticipated landfall. Be sure your truck and trailer are up-to-date on maintenance; otherwise, secure transportation in advance. Purchase at least 3 days of hay and feed to haul with you to the evacuation destination. Keep your animals quarantined from other livestock to avoid any health issues.
If you have the ability to shelter in place, your advance preparation will be focused on maintaining fence, removing dead or dying trees (especially on fence line), and keeping vaccinations current. Make sure your barn roofing material is fastened well and anything in the pasture is removed; all of these can become flying debris. Having your livestock properly identified is necessary should they get out of their pasture. If a tattoo or ear tag has not been applied, then waterproof paint, markers and livestock grease pencils can be used to write your information directly on the animal. Take multiple pictures to inventory your livestock. Purchase feed and hay and fill water tubs to last at least 5 days. When the storm hits, it is best to leave livestock out in the pasture and not stalled in a barn. Barns can collapse. Also, avoid putting them in a pasture with power lines because electrocution is one of the primary causes of death for livestock on small pastures. Some livestock are quite susceptible to disease and illness when consuming spoiled feed; additionally, flood water and the eventual stagnant water left behind can also make livestock ill. Fresh feed, hay and water are very important on small pastures where grazing acres are limited.
For more information:
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Link for Livestock Hurricane Preparation
If you would like more information on disaster preparation for horse owners, please contact Laura Bennett, Multi-County Livestock Agent at the UF/IFAS Pasco, Sumter, Hernando County Extension Office at 352-518-0156.