Preparing livestock in a flood zone
The impact of a natural disaster on people always makes headlines. If you happen to be a livestock farmer, the impact on you seldom makes headlines, but it makes a big impact on you, your livestock and the viability of your operation.
Many natural disasters give you little or no warning, but flooding is usually forecast, giving farmers time to think about contingency plans and take action. If farmers in flood-prone areas get caught unprepared, it is more likely because they didn’t act than not knowing the flood may occur.
Your specific plan of action will vary by the type of livestock operation, but there are many common questions to address. Consider these questions for your own livestock operation if flooding is a possibility at your farmstead or livestock facility:
- Where can I take livestock that is safe from floodwaters?
- How will I move livestock?
- Where will I secure enough trucks/trailers to move livestock in a timely fashion?
- Who will be available to help? Might they have their own livestock to move?
- Is there appropriate shelter and fencing at the temporary site?
- Is there feed at the site or will I have to haul feed there?
- How will I move feed?
- When should I move feed?
- How much feed will I need?
- Do I need to move implements and feeding equipment?
- Where will I access fuel for implements?
- If my usual source of commercial feed is unable to deliver feed, what alternative sources do I have?
- If I have to reduce feeding amounts to stretch the supply, how will I ration it out?
- What about bedding material?
- Is there adequate water on the site?
- Are there adequate water fountains or tanks?
- If I am able to stay in my home, will I be able to get to the livestock location?
If you are able to leave your stock at home but the power goes off for hours or even days because of flooding -
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
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.
Author: Chuck Schwartau, Extension Educator (2011)