Is Your Farm Ready? 4 Livestock Preparedness Tips

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Disasters can strike with little warning, leaving very little time for last-minute preparations. Many people are responsible for taking care of others, and for some people, that commitment extends to furry or four-legged friends like pets, wildlife and service animals. For livestock owners and caretakers, the challenges are even greater, as these animals often have unique needs that are more difficult to meet. 

The U.S. has nearly 2 million farms in the country and is the largest food-producing nation in the world, making disaster livestock preparedness paramount. Livestock preparedness is important for several reasons, including: 

  • Animal welfare. 
  • Economic stability. 
  • Food security. 
  • Public health. 
  • Environmental protection. 
  • Community resilience. 

Proper preparation can make the difference between life and death for livestock during a disaster. Here's a few helpful tips to help you prepare your livestock ahead of a disaster. 


1 – Learn what your hazards are

In addition to severe disasters like hurricanes and flooding, conditions such as drought and extreme cold or heat are day-to-day health and safety concerns for animals under your care. You never want to be caught off-guard.

Knowing the types of emergencies that could happen where you live and whether you need to make any specific preparations for them is an important first step to take.

Learning what your hazards may be easier than you think. FEMA offers several resources to help people identify their biggest risks. You can download the FEMA App to learn more about different types of hazards and to receive alerts when your area is affected by one. Safety tips are available by texting PREPARE to 43362.

You can also visit the National Risk Index, an easy-to-use tool that shows which communities are most at risk to natural hazards. This will help you plan for risks that are most likely to impact your area. 


2 – Create an emergency kit

Your animals need an emergency kit just like you do, but your livestock disaster preparedness kit should be reflective of the type of animals in your care. Here’s some items you should consider:

  • Feed and water.
  • Supplements.
  • Veterinary records.
  • Proof of ownership.
  • Supplies such as rope, halters, cleaning supplies, knives, etc.

You should review the kit regularly to ensure the contents are fresh. 


3 – Know if you need to evacuate or shelter in place

During a disaster, officials may tell you to evacuate. Depending on the disaster and the stability of the shelter you have for your livestock, you may need to evacuate them. 

First, determine where you will go. Do you have friends or relatives who are capable of housing livestock during the disaster? You can also consider fairgrounds or other livestock evacuation locations. Another thing you will need to do ahead of time is arrange how livestock will be transported.

If you have no way to evacuate your livestock, there are some steps you can take to keep them safe. 

  • Identification. Make sure each animal has a form of identification such as a microchip, ear/leg tag, brand, etc.
  • Build a strong shelter. Make sure you have a sturdy shelter that can protect them from the elements. It should be able to sustain high winds and heavy rains and keep them all dry. Consider building it on high ground to avoid flooding.
  • Have adequate food and water. You may not be able to reach your livestock for days depending on damage to the surrounding area. You should provide them with plenty of food and a steady supply of water to sustain them for several days. 
  • Provide warm bedding. During extreme cold or heavy rain, each animal needs warm, dry bedding.
  • Provide cooling options. During excessive heat, you want to make sure animals can access shade and have enough water to drink. Other options include leaving barn doors open, installing fans or using sprinklers. 


4 – Know where to go for help

If you are not home when a disaster occurs, it’s important to have a designated neighbor who can tend to your livestock, knows your evacuation procedure, knows where your emergency kit is and has your emergency contact information available. 

Remember to contact local officials if you need assistance. During a disaster, teams such as the National Animal Health Emergency Response Corps have teams specializing in responding to disease outbreaks and other disasters that affect livestock, poultry, companion animals and wildlife. You may also visit to find your community leaders, including your local emergency management officials. 

While protecting your livestock and farm animals depends on the weather event, having a plan in place will go a long way in keeping them safe. 

For more information on how you can prepare pets, large animals or livestock for a disaster, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website or Prepare Your Pets for Disasters |

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