Experts are encouraging livestock owners to take precautions as Hurricane Alex approaches Texas, as well as providing advice on livestock safety in its aftermath.
"There are several measures that can be carried through in advance to minimize the threat of potential losses to a livestock operation," says Jason Cleere, Texas AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist in College Station.
Livestock owners with large numbers of animals not capable of being evacuated by trailer should get animals to high ground. Open gates to pastures as cattle and other livestock instinctively seek higher ground. "Cattle can also be physically driven out of low-lying areas and to higher ground to avoid a flooded area," he says.
Avoid putting animals in barns or other dwellings due to potential high winds. "Turn them out into large lots, pens or pasture,” Cleere says. “They can seek cover on their own in brushy areas.”
Prior to leaving the ranch, pick up debris that might become a hazard in the event of high winds. Strap down feeders, trailers and other items that can blow into a barn, home or other dwelling. And make sure there’s adequate feed and water for a couple of weeks.
If there is substantial flooding, cattle could become stranded and forages may be ruined. In such instances, supplemental sources of feed may be necessary. "Hay is important," Cleere says. "Basically, hay can be self fed and cattle can sustain themselves for a period of time. And make sure those animals have sufficient sources of good water."
Livestock producers can find hurricane preparedness and recovery info on the Texas Extension Disaster and Emergency Network, Texas EDEN, at texashelp.tamu.edu.
"After the hurricane, danger to livestock can come from several sources," says Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist in Corpus Christi. These include drowning, injury from flying debris and electric shock from downed power lines.
As soon as it is safe, livestock owners should check on the condition of their animals and move them from flooded areas to dry or covered areas if possible. Then check for injury and render first aid for minor injuries.
Stressed animals should be given clean feed or hay and water. Animals that haven’t had access to feed for one or more days should be given a little feed the first few days, gradually increasing it over a week to full feed.
Animals that eat hay should be allowed access to clean hay even if it’s wet, he adds. And watch for signs of sickness. Pneumonia will most likely develop if the animals have been in water and cold. Look for coughing, runny noses, crusty eyes, hard breathing and lowered heads, and treat them as soon as possible.
"Don’t feed wet or moldy feed to any animal," Paschal says. "Wet hay, as long as it is not moldy, will be good filler. Dry feed will be best for all classes of livestock, but give all feed in moderation."
Water quality in populated areas will also be an issue, he says, especially for livestock that drink from streams, bayous and tanks that fill with rain runoff. If possible, water livestock from cleaner water sources until these can be evaluated.
To prepare for disasters, livestock owners should have an inventory list of their animals, ID numbers or photos, and any vet records that might be useful, as well as a first aid kit.
For more info, see "Hurricane Preparedness for Livestock," a publication available in both English (reference number E-166) and Spanish (reference number E-166S) versions at agrilifebookstore.org/. In addition, videos are available at agnews.tamu.edu/hurricane/video.
-- Texas AgriLife Extension release