Your bug-out bag – check.
Emergency provisions – check.
Safety plans for Bessie? Uh oh.
September is National Preparedness Month–a relevant topic for the Sustainable Prepper! Most of us know how important it is to have emergency plans for ourselves, friends and family depending on an array of situations (many depending on where you live). But, have you ever thought of what you’d do in a disaster scenario with chickens, goats, cows and other homestead or livestock? Most people haven’t!
A few years ago, as an underpaid news intern, I realized how important these plans are. As the TV stations’ resident “cows and crops” reporter, I pulled on muckboots many times to interview farmers whose agriculture operations were hit by tornados, floods and drought. Many of them didn’t have a plan in place that could have helped round up and house cattle that had miraculously survived straight line winds that took down a barn. A rural county Emergency Management Agency official told me it was common for livestock owners to hope for the best, or think these emergency situations couldn’t happen to them–effectively sticking their heads deep in the corn fields.
If you don’t have a plan, it’s important to start considering one. Every farmer, homesteader or livestock enthusiast knows the value of their meat, dairy or pet livestock, so why not set yourself up to best protect it? Need help getting started? Here’s five areas to consider when creating your plan:
Know what you’re up against.
Every region is different, with varying threats. We gals at the Sustainable Prepper live in the Midwest, where we’re in the heart of Tornado Alley. This is our most prominent environmental threat, but that doesn’t mean we discount other potential problems. Many preppers are ready for drastic scenarios, but what about everyday threats, like barn fires or water contamination. Not only should you layout a response plan for these situations, but also look at ways to prevent or monitor risky situations (like removing heaters and lamps from chicken coops).
Keep easy-to-access files and ID livestock regularly.
If a disaster should strike, you’ll want to keep your livestock inventory in one accessible spot, along with information about vaccinations, tests or health problems. These documents will make it easier to transport livestock if necessary, which can be particularly difficult in natural disasters or if you need to cross state lines. Plus, an up-to-date inventory makes it easier to recognize if any animals are missing in the case of a barn collapse or pasture breach. More importantly, be sure that tags or ID bands are visible on your livestock. Good records and a strong inventory are only half as effective if you don’t know who’s who!
Identify safe spots for your critters to travel to.
Your plan should consider safety spots for two scenarios: one where you shelter in place, and a second where you need to evacuate. In some instances, it may be necessary to release livestock to pasture with enough provisions to last the duration of a disaster, or for safety reasons keep them confined to one location. But, if major building or property damage, water contamination or another threat that can’t be immediately alleviated is an issue, it’s smart to plan a place where your livestock can be transported and housed.
Create Bessie’s bug-out bag.
How much do your laying hens eat in a day? How much water do your horses need? And what are common ailments they face that require medical attention? Knowing these things can help you start creating a bug-out bag for your livestock, which can be helpful both in situations where you can’t get new provisions, like hay or corn, in, or if you need to get out of town. Consider adding extra or alternative feed sources to your barn (I remember a few years ago where a hay shortage meant many horse owners were purchasing expensive alfalfa to get through the winter). If clean water is a concern, explore water purifying systems to add to your kit. Be sure to include handling supplies, such as harnesses and leads, cages and a bag of tools that you use regularly to your kit. Common antibiotics and medical supplies are a must, especially if you find yourself in a quarantine situation.
Prepare your property for potential quarantines.
About that quarantine: they’re more common than you may think. In 2014, the PED virus affected biosecurity on many hog farms, and required a lot of quarantining throughout the Midwest. How frequently do news reports cover quarantines and outbreaks on all kinds of farms? Creating a biosecurity plan is exceptionally important because it’ll help keep contaminants in and prevent them from spreading to nearby livestock. And, they also help keep contaminants out of your barns and pastures. Being prepared for both sides of a quarantine (keeping things in versus out) means looking at your protocol for separating sick animals from herds, sanitation, and understanding reporting to veterinary or agriculture agencies near you.
This list definitely isn’t exhaustive, but it’s meant to get you thinking about your emergency livestock plan. For more reading on what to include and how to plan, check out these great resources:
Prep4AgThreats.org Fact Sheet
Covers basic planning and feed/water rations
FEMA: Preparing for a Disaster (Planning for Pets and Livestock)
Basic overview of disaster kids and evacuation protocol
The University of Vermont: Disaster Planning for Livestock
A great walkthrough for creating your plan
USDA: Disaster Planning Index
An archive of great disaster planning resources, including barn fire safety/response, handling loose animals at accident locations and an online training course.
Don’t forget to contact your county Emergency Management Agency or Extension Office for recommendations/suggestions and resources