While Florida residents scramble to prepare for Hurricane Irma, agriculture operators are working to make sure their livestock survive the storm. Agents with University of Florida IFAS Extension offer advice on how to safeguard animals before, during and after the storm.
“After Hurricane Matthew, we had livestock die from dehydration, electrocution and collapsed barns,” said Cindy B. Sanders, UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County director and livestock agent. “This can be avoided if operators know how to prepare.”
Sanders offers the following tips:
Before the hurricane:
• When the forces of a hurricane cause flooded conditions, livestock that are not in a confined area can usually take care of themselves. Still, do not let them become trapped in low-lying pens.
• Stock extra feed and water for the livestock. Water is essential. Thirsty animals will try to break out to get to flood waters. If water is in short supply, limit the livestock’s feed intake.
• Block off narrow passageways where animals would be unable to turn around. A few heavy animals in a narrow dead end can be dangerous not only to themselves but also to the buildings in which they are housed.
• Make provisions to block livestock from even remote access to herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and treated seeds. Store agricultural chemicals and seeds where hurricane floodwaters will not contaminate livestock feed or water.
• Horse owners should clearly identify their animals, whether they evacuate or stay put. Keep paperwork and numbers in an easily accessible area. A zip lock bag with the horse’s name, owner information and farm information can be duct taped to the animal’s halter, or braid a luggage tag into the mane or tail.
During the storm:
• Turn off electricity at the main switch. Livestock could damage electric fixtures, causing fires or electrocutions.
• If there is a possibility that dairy barns may become flooded, drive cattle out of the barn. During the rapid rise of water, cattle often refuse to leave a barn and may drown if the water rises high enough in the barn.
After the storm:
• Do not go outside to inspect your livestock, property, or farm until the hurricane has completely passed. The winds may become briefly calm in the eye of the storm.
• Once the storm is over, carefully inspect each animal for injuries over the body, head, eyes, and limbs.
• The property should be inspected for down power lines and other storm damage. If your livestock is missing, contact the local animal control officer and/or the disaster response team.
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