Livestock disaster planning
Published in Dairy Star June 20, 2008
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) and North Dakota State University took the lead for a recently conducted conference entitled, "Beyond Borders - Regional Animal AgroSecurity". The purpose of the conference was to help Extension staff, public health officials, animal health professionals and livestock industry people better understand the risks presented by foreign animal diseases and natural disasters. The conference shared resources available to address these disasters. We also learned about experiences of people who had dealt with a variety of animal disasters from foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom to BSE (Mad Cow Disease) in Washington state.
While the primary focus was on foreign animal diseases, we also discussed the very real possibilities of tornadoes, blizzards, floods and even traffic accidents involving livestock. The presentations contained some real "eye-openers" to say the least, but were full of good practical questions that livestock owners should be asking themselves - and answering in order to be prepared.
Consider these questions for your own dairy:
- If the power goes off for hours or even days because of a major storm -
- How will you water your livestock?
- How will you provide ventilation for your stock?
- How will you milk the cows?
- How will you cool the milk?
- How will you get the milk into a tanker and off to market?
- How long can you store milk on the farm before you have to dump some of it?
- If the road washes out or is blocked, how can you get milk out?
- If you have an emergency power generator, will it start when you need it?
- How long can your generator run continuously?
- How is the generator fueled and can you keep it supplied?
- How many days worth of feed supply do you have on the farm and will you be able to get it out of bins and to the livestock?
- How would you ration feed to last longer on the farm in a sustained emergency?
- If a livestock facility collapses, floods or blows away, how and where can you confine the livestock?
- If injured livestock needs to be euthanized, how will you do it?
- How and where will you dispose of mortalities?
- If your labor force is disrupted, where can you find the help to get the work done?
- If the entire farm blows away in a tornado, are there backup records somewhere so you can continue "business" appropriately and do your financial work for this year?
- Have you considered whether you would re-establish the business you now have if it entirely disappeared to a natural disaster?
You probably don't have answers to all those questions right now, but start thinking about them. Engage the innovative thinking of the rest of your family and people who are part of your farming operation. It is even of value to consider some really off-beat solutions to some of the problems you might face. Sometimes you need to be way on the edge of the solution possibilities in order to actually get through this planning process and arrive at what will be most appropriate for your farm business.
A livestock building collapses on your farm. Are you prepared to make the necessary decisions that are in the best interests for the family's future? C. Schwartau
The last question on the list is pretty drastic, but should be considered. In a time of severe stress, such as the total loss of a farm, it is only natural for the first thought to be, "We'll rebuild." You would probably try to rebuild with the latest technology for the same business operation you had before the disaster, but you really should be considering whether a different type of business is more appropriate for the resources you have available. As time goes along, the interests, skills and abilities of the people involved may also change, so rebuilding might just put everyone back into a business they really don't want to be in anyway. Business continuity is something for which every business needs a plan. Your farm is no exception. Just make sure you continue in the right way and for the right reasons.
Good luck on your planning. While it is a serious issue, don't be afraid to have a little fun with it at this time by looking at a number of scenarios. When you don't actually have to carry out a plan is a good time to really play with it, looking for the best solutions possible. This will help reduce the need to make hasty decisions under a stressful situation and assure that whatever decision is made will best fit the needs of the family and farm operation for the years ahead.