Disasters, by nature, are catastrophic events that overwhelm the ability of individuals, communities, and regions. During such catastrophic events, many things get damaged including transportation, communications, emotions, and thinking.
Animals are like people in that they are emotionally affected by disasters. Often violent impacts of disaster disorient and temporarily alter the behavioral state of livestock. When, and if, you locate your animals, realize that they may be upset, confused, and agitated. They need help finding their normal behavioral pattern.
When dealing with livestock during emergencies, you should re-establish your priorities. The first priority should be your personal safety and welfare, followed by the safety and welfare of other people, and finally animals and property. If you are safe, you can do more to benefit your animals. Follow official instructions for access and safety when re-entering a disaster area.
As you re-enter a disaster area, remember hazards may still occur. Downed power lines, trees, and buildings; flooded areas; unstable roads and highways; gas and utility leaks; debris and wreckage; vandals and looters. Leave an itinerary of your search plan with local authorities and family members. Travel slowly, be alert for hazards, and do not enter unsecured areas. Take identification and livestock ownership documents with you as you search.
Check utilities. Look carefully for signs of damage to electrical components. Contact your electric utility company if you suspect damage, and ask for advice on how to determine if your electric system is safe to turn back on. Depending on the extent of damage, gas lines could also sustain significant damage. Have the gas utility check the system for leaks before continuing service.
Following a disaster, you should account for all livestock, fuels, chemicals, machinery and equipment, and structures. This list should be compared to the list prepared prior to the incident. Any lost animals should be noted, and any hazardous materials such as fuels, pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals that have leaked should be reported to emergency response personnel. Check machinery and equipment, barns and other structures, and fencing for damage. Take photographs of all damage for insurance or emergency assistance purposes. Notify your insurance agent or carriers. Since communication systems are often down following a disaster, it is often helpful to have someone outside of the disaster area notify your insurance companies.
A complete disaster plan will include the return to the farm. If you evacuated your animals, implement the plan developed to get your animals back to your farm. Make a list of material necessary for repairs to machinery and equipment, fencing, barns, and other structures. Complete needed repairs. Insure that suitable and sufficient transportation is available for your animals. Arrange for water, feed/pasture, veterinary supplies, handling equipment, tools, and generators if necessary. During the recovery and rebuilding process, keep in constant communication with the facility housing your evacuated animals and participate in your animals’ welfare and health.
As with humans, the aftermath of disasters pose significant safety and health problems to livestock. However, these safety and health risks can be minimized.
Gather and dispose of trash, limbs, wire, and damaged equipment that could harm livestock. Clear and repair damaged fences.
Make sure livestock have plenty of water and food that have not been contaminated by pollutants. In some cases, it is necessary to truck in water and food, or to remove livestock from contaminated areas.
Observe livestock for signs of infectious disease such as pneumonia or foot rot. All animals that die immediately following a disaster should be necropsied by a veterinarian.
Dispose of dead carcasses. Slaughter houses (rendering plants) will process some dead animals. Those not processed should be buried away from bodies of water at least 3 to 4 feet deep and covered with quick-lime to accelerate decomposition.
Spray livestock with insect repellent in case of floods to protect against mosquitoes that may carry disease. Prior to applying any pesticide, check with your veterinarian for the proper type and use of pesticides.
Even following natural disaster, such as floods and hurricanes, or disasters that cause power outages, you as the owner of the facility remain responsible for the appropriate disposal of manure and other waste from the farm.