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Livestock disaster planning

Vince Crary

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:

Barn, roof fallen in

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.

Barn, roof fallen in

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.

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