Hurricane Irene: Protecting Farm Animals During Disaster

Make sure chickens are perched in barns order to avoid possbiel flooding. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ric Field

(HURRICANE IRENE/FARM ANIMAL SAFETY) Due to their great sizes, many farm animals, such as horses, need special arrangements when a natural disaster such as Hurricane Irene strikes. While many of the same measures used to care for household pets can be applied when caring for farm animals, here are some additional tips to help keep cows, hens, and our other farm friends safe. — Global Animal

Make sure chickens are perched in high areas in order to avoid possible flooding. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ric Field

The Humane Society of the United States

Why Livestock Owners Need to Be Prepared

Disaster preparedness is important for all animals, but it is especially important for livestock because of the size of the animals and their shelter and transportation needs. Disasters can happen anywhere and take many different forms—from hurricanes to barn fires, floods to hazardous materials spills—forcing possible evacuation. Whether you evacuate or shelter in place, it’s important to be prepared to protect your livestock.

Take Precautions

One of the smartest things you can do to protect your family and livestock is to make sure you regularly review and update your disaster plan, supplies, and information regularly.

The following is a list of suggestions we recommend to help keep your livestock safe during an emergency.

  • Make a disaster plan to protect your property, your facilities, and your animals. Create a list of emergency telephone numbers, including those of your employees, neighbors, veterinarian, state veterinarian, poison control, local animal shelter, animal care and control, county extension service, local agricultural schools, trailering resources, and local volunteers.
  • Include a contact person outside the disaster area. Make sure all this information is written down and that everyone has a copy.
  • Make sure every animal has durable and visible identification.
  • Ensure that poultry have access to high areas in which to perch, if they are in a flood-prone area, as well as to food and clean water.
  • Reinforce your house, barn, and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures. Perform regular safety checks on all utilities, buildings, and facilities on your farm.
  • Use only native and deep-rooted plants and trees in landscaping (non-native plants are less durable and hardy in your climate and may become dislodged by high winds or broken by ice and snow).
  • Remove all barbed wire, and consider rerouting permanent fencing so that animals may move to high ground in a flood and to low-lying areas during high winds.
  • Install a hand pump and obtain enough large containers to water your animals for at least a week (municipal water supplies and wells are often contaminated during a disaster).
  • Identify alternate water and power sources. A generator with a safely stored supply of fuel may be essential, especially if you have electrical equipment necessary to the well being of your animals.
  • Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris; make a habit of securing trailers, propane tanks, and other large objects. If you have boats, feed troughs, or other large containers, fill them with water before any high wind event. This prevents them from blowing around and also gives you an additional supply of water.
  • If you use heat lamps or other electrical machinery, make sure the wiring is safe and that any heat source is clear of flammable debris.
  • Label hazardous materials and place them all in the same safe area. Provide local fire and rescue and emergency management authorities with information about the location of any hazardous materials on your property.
  • Remove old buried trash—a potential source of hazardous materials during flooding that may leech into crops, feed supplies, water sources, and pasture.
  • Review and update your disaster plan, supplies, and information regularly.

Sheltering in Place

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. Owners may believe that their animals are safer inside barns, but in many circumstances, confinement takes away the animals’ ability to protect themselves. This decision should be based on the type of disaster and the soundness and location of the sheltering building.

Survey your property for the best location for animal sheltering. If your pasture area meets the following criteria, your large animals may be better off out in the pasture than being evacuated:
•No exotic (non-native) trees, which uproot easily

•No overhead power lines or poles

•No debris or sources of blowing debris

•No barbed wire fencing (woven wire fencing is best)

•Not less than one acre in size (if less than an acre, your livestock may not be able to avoid blowing debris).

If your pasture area does not meet these criteria, you should evacuate. Whether you evacuate or shelter in place, make sure that you have adequate and safe fencing or pens to separate and group animals appropriately.

Work with your state department of agriculture and county extension service. If your animals cannot be evacuated, these agencies may be able to provide on-farm oversight. Contact them well in advance to learn their capabilities and the most effective communication procedure.

Barn Fires: The Most Common Disaster

Preventing barn fires and being prepared in the event of a fire can mean the difference between life and death for your livestock. Knowledge of the danger of fires and how to deal with them is essential, and vigilance is key to prevention.

Evacuation Planning

A successful evacuation plan depends on many factors. We’ve compiled a detailed list of precautions and do’s and don’ts to help you develop a foolproof strategy.

Farm Disaster Kit

Make a disaster kit so you have supplies on hand in the event of a disaster. Place the kit in a central location and let everyone know where it is. Check the contents regularly to ensure fresh and complete supplies. Here are suggested items to include then add items that you use every day.

Your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans.

More Hurricane Irene Coverage:

Urgent: Keep Pets Safe During Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene: Protecting Horses During Disaster