Post Hurricane Checks for Livestock Producers
As this was being written, forecasters were pretty much guaranteeing that this area would be facing a major hurricane. At any rate, whether or not a hurricane in impending, it is a good idea to have a checklist ready for the post-storm cleanup for livestock care.
Once the family is made safe and comfortable, it is time to make sure that the livestock is safe and sound. Make sure there is feed and water available to them, which can be a chore if there is no power available. A generator may be needed to operate pumps to get clean, fresh water to livestock.
Once the immediate needs of the livestock are met, check the fences to make sure they are intact. If cows are turned into a pasture that has a hole in the fence, the cows are sure to fine the hole and get out. Sometimes it is difficult to get them all back home, so making sure the fences are intact saves a lot of time and trouble later on.
While checking the fences, be sure to look for downed trees and broken tree limbs that may be in the pasture. Often after a severe weather event, wild cherry trees blow down or branches will break off and land in the pasture. If these are not removed prior to allowing livestock in that pasture, cows or horses will chow down on these fresh, slightly wilted leaves. If they are allowed to eat these wild cherry leaves, get ready to bury some animals as these leaves are highly toxic to livestock. They contain hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid) which is lethal to cattle, horses, and other livestock.
Be on the lookout for Red Maple trees or branches that may have fallen in the pasture. Wilted Red Maple leaves can also be toxic, especially to horses. If ingested, toxins in wilted Red Maple leaves damage the hemoglobin in red blood cells, decreasing the circulatory system’s ability to provide oxygen throughout the body. Basically, clean up any downed trees or broken branches before allowing livestock back into pastures.
One other item to be alert for when cleaning up pastures is metal. Small metal items such as pieces of wire, cans, metal roofing or other metal materials can be spread across a pasture during severe storms by wind and flood water. Livestock can later pick up small metal pieces and swallow them while grazing. Once the are in the digestive tract, metal can puncture the esophagus, stomach, or intestine, leading to an infection that can be fatal. This is known as hardware disease in beef and dairy cattle and is more common than most people think.
Again, before going out across the farm to make sure pastures are clear and that the fences are in good shape, make sure that livestock has clean, fresh water and that there is plenty of hay or feed available. As livestock producers we are responsible for the welfare of our horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, llamas, alpacas, and any other animal that live on our farms.