Many people depend on livestock and horses for their livelihood and for companionship. Due to their size and their transportation and shelter needs evacuating livestock can be a challenge. Due to this, it is imperative that you are prepared BEFORE a natural disaster strikes your area. Being prepared will not only help keep your livestock safe but also you and your family.
Before the Storm
- Records: Make sure all animals have current immunizations and horses have a current Coggins test. Keep records with you in a watertight bag or container.
- Identification: Every animal should have durable and visible identification whenever possible. Forms of identification: branding, micro chips, tattoos, fetlock ID bands, use trimmers to clip phone number on neck, braid luggage tags into mane or tails, take a picture with your animal with a family member, etc. Halters for each animal is also useful for identification and moving. You can include the following information on halters: animal’s name, your name, and phone number(s).
- Feed and Water: Adequate feed and water for a couple of weeks (remember no electricity = no wells) Hauling water from off the farm should be a last resort. Generators, hand pumps, and solar wells are a solution. Water from natural water sources may become polluted so make sure your water source is clean and contaminant free before using.
- Debris and Structures: Turn off electrical power to machines, barns, and other structures that may become damaged or flooded. Pick up debris that might become a hazard in the event of high winds. Strap down feeders, trailers, and other items that can blow into a barn, home, or other building. Reinforce your barn(s) and outbuildings with hurricane straps. Preform regular safety checks on all utilities, buildings, and facilities.
- Hazardous Materials: Move hay, machinery, fuels, pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals out of flood prone areas. Label and place all materials in the same safe area. Depending on the materials, provide local fire and rescue and emergency management authorities with information about the location of any hazardous materials.
- Fences: Remove all barbed wire, and consider rerouting permanent fencing so that animals may move to high ground during a flood and to low-lying areas during high winds.
- Disaster Kits: Restock or create your kit with basic veterinary supplies (antiseptic, bandages, wrap, antibiotics), handling equipment (halters, leads, cages), sanitation supplies, water, feed, buckets, hay (forages can be destroyed by flooding and high winds), flashlights, portable radios, batteries, food, water, and disaster supplies for your family.
- Don’t Forget the Little Guys: Ensure small livestock, including poultry, have access to high and dry areas. If you plan on evacuating with your smaller livestock make sure you have the correct mode of transportation in order to transport them safely.
- Review and Update Disaster Plan, Supplies, and Information
The time you have to evacuate your livestock may be very limited. With an effective emergency plan, you will have enough time to effectively move your livestock to a safe location. Being unprepared or waiting until the last minute may lead to you having to leave your livestock behind. If you are forced to leave during an emergency there is no way to know how long before you are allowed back. If left behind, your livestock could be unattended for days without care, feed, and water.
Survey your property for the best location for your animals to shelter. If you pasture area meets the following criteria, your large animals may be better off out in the pasture than being evacuated (FDACS.gov). (1) No exotic (non-native) trees, which uproot easily, (2) no overhead power lines or poles, (3) No debris or sources of blowing debris, (4) No barbed wire fencing (woven is better), (5) Not less than one acre in size (if less than one acre, livestock may not be able to avoid debris). If your pasture does not meet these requirements, you should evacuate.
Collapsed structures, dehydration, electrocution, and accidents from fencing failure are the leading causes of death for livestock during a natural disaster. As responsible livestock owners it is our responsibility to take the precautions and protect then from these hazards.
- 72 Hours: Animals should be evacuated no less than 72 hours before storm makes landfall.
- Trailers: If you do not own your own trailer or do not have enough space for all of your livestock, be sure to have several people on standby to help you evacuate. Before getting on the road, check trailers to make sure they are in good condition (check floors – solid and clean, tires, brake lights). When loading, don’t overcrowd animals. Take water supply with you.
- Loading and Unloading: If your animals are not accustom to being loaded onto a trailer, practice the procedure therefore you minimize the time it takes to load and you reduce the risk of stress related injuries.
- Winds: High winds can come way before the storm makes landfall. Be cautious when traveling with high profile trailers.
- Know 2 Routes: Contact your local emergency management authority and become familiar with at least two evacuation routes well in advance.
- Inform Friends and Family: Inform your friends and family about you evacuation plans and when you plan on returning. If you are unable to evacuate, post detailed instructions in several places. Including, the barn, feed/tack rooms, and gate entrances.
- Where to Go?: Arrange for a place to shelter your animals. https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Animals/Animal-Related-Emergency-Response
- Take Supplies: You should have or be able to readily obtain feed, water, veterinary supplies, handling equipment, tools, and generators if necessary.
After the Storm
- Check Condition of Animals: As soon as it is safe, check on the condition of your animals or have someone do it for you. As soon as possible, move livestock out of any flooded areas to dry and/or covered locations.
- Check for Injuries and Sickness: Check for injuries and render first aid as needed. Serious injuries will require veterinary attention. Pneumonia will most likely develop if the animals have been in water and cold. Signs of Pneumonia: coughing, runny nose, crusty eyes, hard breathing, and lowered heads. Treat as soon as possible.
- Supplies Needed: Be prepared to take feed, hay, water, basic livestock first aid supplies, wire cutters, and other tools.
- Feed Quality: Do not give wet or moldy feed to animals. Wet hay is okay as long as it is not moldy. Check hay for fire ants. Give stressed animals clean feed or hay and water. Provide animals that have not had access to feed for one or more days a little feed the first few days. Gradually increase it over a week to full feed.
- Water Quality: Water quality will also be an issue, especially for livestock in populated areas that drink from natural water sources and tanks that fill with rain runoff. This water could be contaminated with salt water from storm surges, chemicals, dead animals, and fecal material from flooded septic tanks and sewer systems. If possible, water livestock from cleaner water sources until these can be evaluated.
- Water Availability: Wells will not be available if there is no electricity. Hauling water off site is very challenging. If possible, generators, hand pumps and solar wells are great solutions for providing water.
- Snakes: High water will cause snakes to seek higher ground as well. Rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and copperheads are the principle snakes affecting livestock since they can strike and envenom quickly.
- Dead Animals: If there are dead animals on your property, dispose of them properly if possible. Cover with tarps to keep predators away. Check with FDACS for proper handling procedures.
How to best protect your livestock during a natural disaster will depend on the size and type of your herd. It will also depend on the type of natural disaster. Providing the basics – food, water, shelter, and medical needs – before, during and after the disaster is essential. Prepare now therefore you and your livestock are safe. For more information please contact your local Extension office or visit https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/archive/hot_topics/disaster_prep/hurricane_prep_ag.shtml