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After a Disaster Actions for Livestock

Disasters are often catastrophic events and can overwhelm a community.  After an emergency it is important to re-establish your priorities. The first priority should be the safety of people, followed by the safety of animals and property.  If you are safe, you can do more to help your animals.  This is similar to the instructions given when boarding an airplane - "Put your oxygen mask on yourself before you put one on for your child". 

Entering a Disaster Area

  • It is important to follow official instruction from the Office of Emergency Management or other public health officials. Don't go back into an area that has not been approved. This will put your life in danger as well as first responders that need to rescue you and your animals.
  • Plan your route before going back to your farm. Find out what roads are opened or closed. Alternate routes may need to be taken. Even traveling on roads that are open can be hazardous; anticipate debris, downed trees and flooding on the roads. Drive slowly and use extra caution as you proceed.
  • Also use caution when you enter your property. Debris may be present that could harm you and your animal.
  • If you were unable to turn the electric off before the disaster, look for signs of damage to electrical wires and surge boxes. Contact your utility company if your suspect damage or need advice on when you can safely turn on your electric components. Never turn on the electricity in areas that have been flooded before having the system checked by an electrician or by the electric company. Gas lines can also sustain damage and it is good to have gas lines checked by the gas utility company.
  • Travel slowly and be alert for any hazards that may occur on the road. Many roads can be blocked and you will have to take alternate routes.

Your Animals After a Disaster

  • If your animals sheltered in place, it is important to be able to locate them and make sure their surroundings are safe. Check pastures and barns for any sharp objects or debris that may harm them. Make sure all fences and gates are secure before placing animals in those areas.
  • Disaster can have an emotional impact on animals. Handle livestock quietly and calmly.
  • If possible, place livestock in familiar surroundings or ones that are quiet and have good fencing. It is good to re-unite similar groups of animals with each other.
  • Check your animals for any cuts or abrasions. Clean them if necessary. Treat any minor wounds or contact your veterinarian.
  • If possible, move your animals in a safe place that is free of debris and the fences are in good repair so they do not escape.
  • After a disaster the layout of your farm may change, it may be important to acclimate your livestock to the new surroundings. They may need to learn the new fence layout and where food and water is located.
  • Unfortunately in disasters animals can die. Contact your local extension office, Office of Emergency Management or the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for more information on carcass disposal options.
  • Record losses of livestock, feed hay and other resources for possible future compensation. In a disaster, this webpage will contain links to report this damage.
  • Depending on the disaster, your animals and property may need to be decontaminated before returning. If this is the case contact your local county Office of Emergency Management.
  • Examine feed, hay and water supplies to make sure they are suitable to be given to your animals. If these items are wet do not feed them to your animals, mold and other toxins could be present that could harm your animals. After a disaster, water can also become contaminated. Make sure water is safe for your livestock to drink before giving it to them.
  • After a disaster expect some animals to be picky eaters. Some animals may still be nervous after the disaster and may not want to eat. Feed and water may taste or smell differently after a disaster. Try offering different types of feed (approved for your animal) and hay. If the animal still is not eating, you may need to contact your veterinarian.

Lost Livestock

  • If you are planning to search for your animals, check with the Office of Emergency Management to make sure it is advisable. As you re-enter the disaster area, be aware that there still may be hazards such as downed power lines, flooded areas, and debris on the road. Travel slowly and be alert for any hazards that may occur on the road. Many roads can be blocked and you will have to take alternate routes.
  • Leave an itinerary of your search plans with a family member.
  • Emergency responders often evacuate animals. If your animals are not on the farm, contact local Office of Emergency Management or other public health officials and listen to emergency alerts or announcements on your phone, computer, TV or radio. These alerts may direct you to places your animals might be found.
  • Have proof of livestock ownership with you when you enter this area.

Someone Else's Animals

  • Use extreme caution when approaching and handling someone else's animal. They may be frightened. It is best to work with two or more people when dealing with a strange animal.
  • Isolate someone else's animal from your own animals. Follow good biosecurity protocols if you go to other farms so as not to bring back any disease to your farm.

Deceased Livestock

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