Disaster preparedness for livestock

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By Linda Graves

June marks the beginning of hurricane season. Last week this column covered steps to take to prepare you and companion animals from disaster. Much has been written about planning for our pets, but many of us in rural areas need to think about keeping our livestock safe also.
The following information is taken from the Humane Society of the United States Disaster Preparedness pamphlet for Livestock.
The leading cause of death of large animals in hurricanes and similar events are collapsed barns, dehydration, electrocution, and accidents resulting from fencing failure. If you own farm animals, you need to take precautions to protect them from these hazards, no matter what the disaster potential for your area.
Take precautions. Create a list of emergency numbers. Make sure every animal has durable and visible identification. Your livestock should have high ground accessible to them in flood prone areas. Reinforce outbuildings and barns with hurricane straps. Perform regular safety inspections on utilities, buildings, and fencing. Remove all barbed wire.
Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris. Label hazardous materials and place them in a safe area.
Have an evacuation plan. Evacuate animals as soon as possible. In a slowly evolving disaster, such as a hurricane, leave no later than 72 hours before anticipated landfall, especially if you will be hauling a high profile trailer such as a horse trailer.
Arrange for a place to shelter your animals. Plan ahead and work within your community to establish safe shelters for farm animals, such as fairgrounds, or any other safe and appropriate facility. Become familiar with at least two possible evacuation routes well in advance of a disaster.
Take all of your disaster supplies with you. If your animals are sheltered off your property, make sure that they remain in the groupings they are used to. Be sure they are securely contained.
If evacuation is not possible, a decision must be made whether to confine large animals to an available shelter on your farm or leave them out in pastures.
You may believe that your animals are safer inside barns, but in many circumstances, confinement takes away the animals’ ability to protect themselves.
Pasture your animals in an area no less than one acre in size. There should be no overhead power lines or poles, no debris or source of blowing debris, and no barbed wire fencing.
We all hope that we will not be in the direct path of a hurricane, but even a tropical storm can create much damage.
Preparing in advance will hopefully minimize injuries and loss of life to livestock.