AUBURN, Ala. – Severe weather can cause stress and problems for livestock, as well as producers. In a moment’s notice, storms can rip through a facility, causing damage and possible animal injuries or deaths. Producers must have a plan to ensure the safety and care of their livestock after a storm.
Feed and Water
First, producers need a plan to ensure their animals have a supply of feed and fresh water.
Dr. Soren Rodning, an Alabama Extension veterinarian, said that water is a critical need for livestock.
“Cattle can survive several days without feed and even weeks to months with limited feed,” said Rodning. “However, water is a more critical need for livestock. Cattle could survive a few days without water because of the moderate amount of water in their rumen, but this water quickly runs out and needs to be replaced.”
Rodning stresses that livestock need daily access to fresh, clean water. Livestock may experience dehydration and digestive upsets if they drink water with high salinity levels.
Disease and Injuries
Assessing the condition of livestock after a storm is extremely important. Injuries and diseases are major causes for concern.
“Severely injured or sick animals may require veterinary treatment or euthanasia. In dairy cattle, mastitis might be a problem, especially if their milking routine is disrupted,” said Rodning. “If animals need treatment, inspect working facilities for damage before using them.”
After a storm, cattle might have access to toxic chemicals or plants that they would normally not have. Rodning said producers must act fast to prevent their livestock from consuming these chemicals or plants.
“A storm may damage chemical storage buildings as well as fences. This may allow cattle to access these toxic chemicals, which can lead to sickness or death,” said Rodning. “Toxic plants, such as wild cherry or red maple trees, are also a threat. Producers must make sure that the storm did not blow these plants into pastures or in reach of livestock.”
Storms often damage fences. Temporary fencing is an option to utilize until repairs are complete. These types of fences are not permanent, but are a quicker, temporary option to keep your livestock in the pastures.
Dr. Kim Mullenix, an Alabama Extension animal science agent, said that temporary fences can be taken down and used multiple times.
“These fences are normally used for short periods of time and then removed and stored until they are needed again,” said Mullenix. “They are easy to build, take down and cost less than permanent fences. While they do not take the place of permanent, exterior fences, they can beneficial in grazing systems to allow short-term access to pasture areas.”
Planning for Future Storms
The best way to prepare for severe weather is to have a plan of action. Advanced planning can help producers minimize the loss of animal lives and health problems. The Alabama Extension Emergency Handbook can assist producers in creating their own action plans.The handbook is available as a free iBook download and is also available on the Alabama Extension website.
While planning ahead will help producers limit the effects of severe weather, it will not prevent everything. In those cases, Alabama livestock producers can work with agricultural organizations, regional Extension agents and other local livestock producers to lessen the impact of a disaster in their area and on their farm.