Extension Agent: Farm and Ranch disaster preparedness

By Peter J. McGuill
July 23, 2013 at 2:23 a.m.

Peter McGuill

Peter McGuill

Preparing for a natural disaster along the Texas Gulf Coast is an annual ritual for many residents. Those who have experienced hurricanes and flooding in years past know well the devastation that is left in the wake of such weather events along with the added peril of wildfires.

No power, suspect water supplies and the vast cleanup and recovery efforts that linger for days, or even weeks, after a storm has past are all events that we are told to prepare for to protect human life.

On the farm and ranch, livestock have the same basic needs of food, water and shelter. Basic preparations in just a few critical areas are important to helping your livestock survive in the aftermath of a storm or wildfire.

Water is the most critical component. Think through your operation, and make plans to provide a clean source of water for livestock.

In low-lying coastal areas, stock tanks and other water sources could be impacted by tidal surge bringing with it copious amounts of salt water.

Cattle that drink salt water without available fresh water will die in just a few days as a result of this salt toxicity. Electric-powered water well pumps have replaced the windmill in many livestock operations.

Yet, in the aftermath of a storm, electricity may not be available for several days or weeks. Solar-powered pumps could face the same fate is a result of physical damage from an intense storm or fire.

Preparing for this scenario by having a portable generator to power the pumps and plenty of fuel on hand to keep the generator running, will help you provide the basic need of water for your livestock until electricity is restored.

Wildfires and coastal flooding also create challenges with recovery because of the loss of fences. This leads to dislocated livestock that can be difficult to trace back to their rightful owner.

Permanent identification, such as brands that are properly registered and tattoos on registered livestock, are important for law enforcement as they began to match livestock to owners.

One of the most under-appreciated preparedness chores is to complete a record of inventory on your farm or ranch. Documenting your equipment, number and description of livestock and other capital items that you own will save time and effort as you work through the recovery process.

Taking time to think through your farming and ranching enterprise and answering the "what ifs" for your operation are vital to quickly getting back on your feet following the wrath of nature.

For more information on preparing for the unexpected on your farm or ranch, visit the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network at texashelp.tamu.edu.

Peter J. McGuill is the Victoria County extension agent - ag and natural resources. Contact him at 361-575-4581 or pjmcguill@ag.tamu.edu.



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