Central Arkansas suffered severe damage from recent spring tornadoes, which brought loss to people, structures, pets and livestock. Because severe weather that can cause tornado outbreaks is now possible throughout the entire year, it is crucial Arkansans are educated on how to prepare for these events.
If you own a farm with livestock, there are some preparations you can do to minimize losses and get back to work as quickly as possible after a storm. The most important point to keep in mind is to have a plan and carry it out when severe weather is predicted. Here are some things to consider when putting together your storm preparation plan.
First, plan for extended periods without water or electricity. Damage to infrastructure and the resulting debris can render water pumps, electricity, cell phone service and wifi inoperable. Determine how you will deal with these losses before they happen. If possible, invest in a reliable backup generator and keep it in excellent operating condition.
Next, familiarize yourself with the disaster response plan of your community. Do you know where emergency shelters are? Do you have the contact info of emergency responders in the area? Knowing what your community’s plan is to respond to severe weather threats will help not only your home and business but allow you to assist your neighbors who may be in need.
Some long-term strategies to preparing for the unexpected include daily organization of farm and animal work. Keep your facilities, fences and animal working areas in neat, well-working condition. Also, a clean farm will help minimize damage to equipment, tools and buildings from debris in high winds. It also will limit the risk of injury to distressed animals on your property.
If your property has areas that are prone to flooding, be sure to relocate livestock to higher ground before the storms hit. Also, pay attention to your pasture’s layout so animals can reach higher ground if paddocks are located in flood-risk areas. To help you keep track of your livestock, maintain an inventory by using ear tags or other forms of permanent ID. If an animal gets lost as a result of a storm, these records of ownership will make it easier to identify and locate livestock.
While cattle producers usually know the "ins" and "outs" of transporting animals, handling livestock and pets can pose a challenge for some owners. Because animals sense severe weather or impending disaster, they can be difficult to handle. To minimize any difficulty while handling animals, practice loading and transporting them prior to severe weather, and teach them to exit and enter through barn gates and fence gates that are not frequently used to lessen stress when those exits have to be used in an emergency situation.
Assemble and keep in a safe place an emergency kit for livestock, which includes handling equipment such as halters, nose leads, buckets and medication; tools and emergency items for vehicles and trailers; and keep vehicle gas tanks at least half-full in case you need to evacuate the area.
After a severe storm, remember these points as you survey your own property or help in the community: animals, including pets, can be injured and distressed for some time after the event. Keep livestock in a paddock where a veterinarian can provide treatment and you can observe their behavior. If animals have died on the property, be sure to remove them from streams or other water sources and select a dedicated burning area for them. This will help limit water contamination for your, your neighbors and other living things in the area. Before drinking or using the water sources on your property or in the community, check its safety before consuming.
Finally, even less severe thunderstorms can result in considerable debris around farm and homestead as well as damage to barns. Clean up debris as soon as feasible and make any repairs to fences to maintain the safety of your farm.
For more information about livestock safety, visit extension’s newly revamped web site, www.uaex.edu, or contact your county extension agent.