What farmers and ranchers can do to protect their livestock during floods
Posted 8/29/2017

Floods can impact animal health as well as human health. Make plans for your livestock and horses in the event you will need to evacuate your farm.

Before a Flood

Maintain an inventory

  • Keep a current list of all animals on your farm.
  • Include their location and any records of vaccinations, testing, and ownership.

Have identification for all animals 

  • Make sure animals have some form of permanent identification (e.g., ear tags, tattoos).
  • Ensure animals are properly vaccinated before exposure to floodwaters.
  • Prepare an evacuation kit.
  • Handling equipment (e.g., halters, nose leads)
  • Water, feed, and buckets
  • Medications
  • Tools and supplies needed for manure cleanup
  • Safety and emergency items for your vehicles and trailers
  • Gas powered generators

Make evacuation arrangements 

  • Determine possible evacuation areas – higher elevation, alternate production facilities (e.g., temporary milking parlors).
  • Determine several routes to these locations.
  • Identify alternate water or power sources.
  • Locate and prearrange feed and water delivery, needed equipment (e.g., milking) and services (e.g., milk pickup).
  • Have well maintained backup generators for livestock production operations.
  • Make transport arrangements (e.g., trucks, trailers) with experienced handlers and drivers.
  • Condition animals to being loaded and transported.

 Ensure a safe environment

  • Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures.
  • Remove dead trees or objects from fields or livestock areas that may serve as potential debris during a flood situation.

During a Flood

Be aware animal behavior may change before, during and even after a disaster

  • If you must evacuate, ensure your family’s safety first
  • If there is time - move or evacuate livestock and horses to higher ground.

AVOID leaving animals behind

  • If there is no other alternative, keep gates or buildings open so they can escape high water.
  • Provide access to safe free-choice food source, clean water and the safest living areas possible.
  • Do not rely on automatic watering systems, because power may be lost.
  • Establish escape routes to safe locations (higher elevation).
  • Place your contact number and the name and number of your veterinarian on the building.

After a Flood

Assess your animals and building structures

  • Survey damage to your barns and other structures; assess the stability and safety.
  • Examine your animals closely; contact your veterinarian if you observe injuries or signs of illness.

Return animals only after the threat has passed and the safety of buildings or the area has been assessed 

  • Release animals in a safe and enclosed area until familiarity of the surroundings can occur.

Provide non-contaminated feed or water

  • Provide clean, uncontaminated water.
  • Do not feed flood damaged or moldy feed or hay.
  • Do not use any feed or forage that may have been contaminated by chemical or pesticides.

Animal disposal

  • Record any animal deaths.
  • Check with your state or local authorities for proper disposal methods for animal carcasses.

Prevent illness

  • Keep animals away from flood waters which may contain harmful bacteria or chemicals.
  • Monitor animals daily for signs of illness

Development of this educational material was by the Center for Food Security and Public Health with funding from the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture, June 2010. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricane Harvey.