Livestock safety is paramount during floods

While personal safety is always a major concern, Texas farmers and ranchers should also have an emergency response plan in place that protects all livestock and other large animals on their property.

Cattle on high ground after a hurricane tidal wave. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

“Emergency preparedness is important for all animals, but especially livestock because of their size, feed requirements, and shelter and transportation needs,” said Monty Dozier, Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service program director of assessment and disaster recovery, Bryan-College Station. “In Texas, an extremely likely emergency scenario that could affect livestock is flooding, either from excessive precipitation or rain and tides caused by a tropical storm or hurricane.”

Flooding can come from flash floods that occur quickly due to intense rainfall or develop over time, such as tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes. It can also be the result of another unexpected event, such as the rupture of a dam upstream of a farm or ranch.

Identify resources

Disaster preparedness and recovery equipment
There are many disaster preparedness and recovery documents available on the Texas EDEN website. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

“The emergency plan should include the phone numbers of resources you may need before, during and after the emergency,” Dozier said. “This would include contact information for employees, neighbors, vets, animal shelters, transportation services and raw material suppliers. You should also have the number of the local poison control center and your local AgriLife Extension office.

Also, he said, be sure to include contact details for out-of-area resources in case local resources are overwhelmed.

Dozier said practical information on preparing livestock for disaster can be found on the site. Texas Extension Disaster and Emergency Education Network, Texas EDEN, the AgriLife Extension bookstore and in e-book format.

Steps to prepare, protect livestock

Jason Cleere, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension specialist in beef cattle in the Department of Animal Sciences, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bryan-College Station, said some of the key steps to ensure the safety and safe return of livestock include:

– Adequate identification of animals. Cattle must have visible identification numbers, even if they are not intended to be transported from the property.

“Floods often cause cattle to seek shelter, and they get lost or end up in a neighbor’s pasture,” Cleere explained. “Unfortunately, some people are also taking the opportunity and stealing displaced livestock. ”

– Restrict access to dangerous areas. If necessary, move livestock to higher ground and deny access to pastures, barns or outdoor structures prone to flooding. Many animals drown because they refuse to leave the flooded shelters. Additionally, prevent livestock from re-entering potentially dangerous areas.

“Moving the cattle to higher ground will also allow you to provide them with better care and help relieve any potential foot and skin problems they might have from the flooding,” said Cleere.

– Continue to provide food and water. During the floods, livestock still need food and drinking water. Emergency preparedness should include emergency options for feeding and watering animals.

“Hay is the most important food source for stranded or displaced livestock,” said Cleere. “It’s okay for animals to eat clean hay, even if it’s wet, especially if it’s the best option available. However, do not feed moldy feed to livestock as it may contain toxins.

He also warned against giving livestock water that could have been contaminated by the floods.

“Some resources can become inaccessible or contaminated by flood water,” he said. “In some cases, it may be necessary to transport water by truck to the cattle ranching areas. “

– Eliminate potential contaminants. Floodwaters often contaminate soils, feeds, and freshwater sources by carrying chemicals, fertilizers, wastes, and other debris from their original containers and locations.

“Some ways to protect an animal from potential contaminants include labeling hazardous materials and placing them in a safe location, as well as moving chemicals, fuels, fertilizers and other contaminants to higher ground. and checking for leaks in containers, ”Cleere said. “You also need to keep an inventory of all hazardous substances that might be released during a flood and remove any buried waste that might find its way into crops, feed, water sources and pastures. Finally, be sure to secure or remove anything that could become floating debris, including trailers, propane tanks, boats, and feeders.

– Check for fire / electrical hazards. Remove all combustibles near barns and shut off all electrical power to barns, buildings, and other structures that house livestock until the threat of flooding has subsided.

“If available, use gasoline or diesel generators that can be carried away from the area when not in use,” Cleere said.

Dozier added that during major floods, AgriLife Extension will often set up strike teams at various animal supply points around affected areas. These supply points serve as staging areas to receive donated hay and food from farmers and ranchers, as well as industry partners and commodity associations, statewide.

Cattle after a flood

The consequences of flooding can also create hazards that can lead to animal injury or death, Dozier said.

Pasture flooded with water on both sides of the fence and meadows submerged.
Brazos County field after a flood. (Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife)

“Some possible dangers include vscontaminated food and water; standing or stagnant water in which mosquitoes can breed; animal carcasses; sick, sick or displaced animals; damaged gates and fences; weakened structures; and eroded or unstable stream beds, ”he said. “After a flood, it’s important to take inventory of all livestock and identify any missing animals, remove potentially dangerous items from pastures, and quickly repair damaged fences or gates. “

Dozier said removing items from pasture protects more than livestock.

“It also protects farm workers and machinery from injury or damage while mowing pasture that grew and hid these objects,” he said.

Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Corpus Christi, said as soon as it is safe, livestock owners should check the condition of their animals,

“It is best to move them out of flooded areas and into dry or covered areas if possible, then check them for injuries and give necessary first aid until a vet can be found. “Paschal said. “If an animal has a wound, clean the wound and dress it with a topical antibiotic, and cover it with a bandage or gauze if available. Then contact your vet and provide a full description of the injury, so your vet can prioritize your pet’s treatment.

Paschal said animals that haven’t been able to eat for one or more days should be given some food for the first few days, then gradually increase the ration over a week.

“Producers should also check their animals for signs of illness, especially a secondary respiratory disorder like pneumonia.,He said. “Listen if you cough or have difficulty breathing and look for unclear mucus flowing from your nose. Later you might notice crusty eyes and a bowed head. You will want to separate these animals and do them. treat as soon as possible.

He also noted the rot of the foot or leptospirosis is another typical problem with livestock after a flood and can even occur after only prolonged rain.

“It’s also important to make sure all livestock vaccinations are up to date and to apply insect repellents to protect livestock from what will likely be increased mosquito and fly populations,” Paschal said.

Dozier said that for farmers and ranchers, protecting livestock from the risk of flooding and other natural disasters and emergencies is essential to ensure the continued success of their operations.

“The recent and longer past has shown us that there are a number of natural or man-made disasters or emergencies that can potentially affect a farming business,” he said. “Replacing livestock can be a frustrating, time consuming and expensive proposition, so this is another case where some short term preparation can save a lot in the long term.”


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