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How to Build an Emergency Storm Preparedness and Disaster Plan for Your Farm

Learn what to do to prepare your farm for an emergency, natural disaster, stormy weather, hurricanes, tornados, snow storms, hail storms or flood to minimize property damage and injury to pets or livestock.

Before the Storm

When you know there is a storm coming, it's best to prepare everything you possibly can to reduce the amount of property damage to your farm and reduce the chance of injury to your livestock or pets. Here are some storm safety tips you can follow to prepare for a thunderstorm, tropical storm or other severe weather:

  • Keep trucks, tractors, and similar equipment fueled and ready to use at a moment's notice. DO NOT carry full cans of fuel in your vehicle unless you have a fuel transfer tank that is made specifically for this purpose.
  • Check to make sure your truck is ready to pull the trailer. Check the trailer hitch to make sure it is secure and in proper working order.
  • If you plan to move livestock, make arrangements as soon as possible after learning of the approaching storm. Owners of large animals should not attempt an out-of-county evacuation unless they leave at least three days before the storm.
  • If large livestock can't be evacuated, turn them loose in larger pastures or pens on high ground with some solid shelter or tall brush and large trees for cover. Livestock should never remain in a closed barn. If the barn is damaged by wind, the animals could be injured or killed.
  • Keep livestock feed, hay, tack, medicine, and other livestock supplies stored in locations that will withstand rising water and high wind.
  • Have enough livestock feed on hand for at least a week, and the same amount of water, up to 150 gallons per horse or bovine. Tractor Supply Co. carries a selection of feed and water storage tanks.
  • Stock up on basic veterinary supplies. Including: bandages, topical antibiotics, ropes and halters for restraining injured animals.
  • Keep a one-month supply on hand of medications and livestock supplements. Label them clearly with feeding instructions in case you cannot be there to administer.
  • Make sure housing, food, and supplies for small animals such as chickens and rabbits are storm ready and able to withstand high winds and rising water. Smaller animals can be brought indoors if necessary. Build temporary pens in a garage.
  • Most damage to buildings and animals come from wind and flying objects. Heavy farm equipment should be placed under cover and tied down if possible.
  • Keep a written inventory of all livestock, including breeding and expense records, with your important financial papers. If you lose livestock, you may need this kind of paperwork for insurance purposes.
  • Make sure livestock branding, tagging or other identification programs are up-to-date in case some of your animals become lost.
  • Keep fencing, gates, corrals, and other enclosures in good repair throughout the year. Plan to do it in May of each year, before storm season starts.

Storm Preparedness Resources

  • Emergency Boarding — Make arrangements with boarding facilities at points as far from the storm as possible. Make sure that you notify the facility if your horse is a stud or a mare in heat.
  • Know organizations in your area that are prepared to rescue and house displaced livestock.
  • Check with your local Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which may be designated as the lead agency for animal issues during a statewide disaster.
  • When a hurricane is coming toward you, contact your local office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Civil Defense or state veterinarian's office to find out more information about options for livestock in your area.

Stock Up on Supplies Before the Storm

For your personal safety, follow the "take shelter" recommendations provided by your local emergency broadcast system. It is a good idea to have the following items on hand before the storm hits your area. Do not drive around during a storm, and make sure you are well-prepared as far in advance of the storm as possible. Many of the preparedness items can be gathered in advance and stored somewhere convenient so that you already have the supplies you need when storm does hit.

  • Buckets, containers, stock tanks for food, water and supplies
  • Food and feed for pets, livestock and humans
  • Tarps and ratchet tie-downs
  • Hand fuel pump
  • Generator
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Trailer hitches
  • Gas containers
  • Branding and tagging supplies

After the Storm

Here are some tips on what to do after a storm or other natural disaster has passed.

  • Livestock owners should not put themselves at risk by checking on livestock during a storm. Check on them immediately after the storm.
  • Check stalls to make sure that they are clear of debris, water and wildlife before putting your horses back in them.
  • Check your entire fence line for damage and either repair it or put up emergency orange plastic construction fencing to keep your horses from getting onto roads or other potentially dangerous situations.
  • Most animals are used to being outside in bad weather and will simply need clean feed, a dry place to stand, and water to help them recover from stress.
  • Make sure livestock have plenty of water and food, which has not been contaminated by pollutants. In some cases, it is necessary to truck in water and food, or to remove livestock from contaminated areas. Add a few drops of bleach to standing water to prevent disease.
  • Electrolytes and vitamins may also help livestock return to normal. However, you should be prepared for the worst. If animals are injured, be ready to administer first aid or contact your veterinarian.
  • Most owners can deal with minor injuries such as cuts. If animals are more severely injured, call your veterinarian. Young animals are more susceptible to stress than older animals and may need more care.
  • Bad weather often causes pregnant females near term to give birth. So watch for new baby farm animals.
  • Clean up trash, limbs, wire, and damaged equipment that could harm livestock. Clear and repair damaged fences.
  • Spray livestock with insect repellent in case of floods to protect against mosquitoes that may carry disease.
  • Observe livestock for signs of infectious disease such as pneumonia or foot rot.
  • If you've lost an animal, contact veterinarians, humane societies, stables, surrounding farms, and other facilities. Listen to the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) for groups that may be accepting lost pets or livestock.
  • If you find someone else's animal, isolate it from your animals until it is returned to its owner or examined by a veterinarian. Always use caution when approaching and handling strange or frightened horses or livestock.

Disaster Food Schedule

Species Water
(in gallons)
Beef Cattle 5-15 alfalfa and/or oat 15-30lbs Daily
Dairy Cattle 5-30 alfalfa 15-40lbs Daily
Horses 5-15 alfalfa and/or oat 8-15lbs 2x Daily
Pigs 1-2 pig pellets/mixed grains 1-7lbs 1x or 2x Daily
Llamas 2-5 alfalfa and/or oat 2-4lbs 2x Daily
Sheep 1-2 alfalfa 2-5lbs Daily
Goats 1-2 alfalfa and/or oat 1-5lbs Daily

Supplies For After The Storm

  • Fencing materials
  • Power tools
  • Chainsaw
  • Sump pump
  • Tack supplies
  • Wire cutters
  • Livestock nutrition supplements
  • Insect/fly control products
  • Flea and tick care products
  • Livestock vaccinations and dewormers
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Temporary livestock fencing