Regardless of the industry, the thought process to ensure that your business is prepared for a natural disaster can be applied across the board.

Last year’s hurricane season was relentless as storm after storm hit the Southeastern United States. But hurricanes aren’t alone in the ability to inflict widespread damage on to farming operations. Tornadoes, floods, fires, wind and winter storms can occur most anywhere. Now there’s the growing concern about unnatural events such as terrorist activities. Advance preparation is a must.

“As a society we take for granted many aspects of daily life,” notes Paul Johnson, a veterinarian and dairy farmer in Climax, Ga., who encountered three of last season’s nearby hurricanes. “Natural disasters can effect water, electricity, fuel, even pickups and deliveries. If caught unprepared it can impact your economic bottom-line.”

He offers these recommendations:

  • Assess your generator needs. If you’ve expanded your buildings, changed or updated any number of equipment items, you may have unknowingly increased electrical needs beyond your generators’ capacities.  Have a qualified electrician inspect and calibrate your generators once a year. Start up the generators and do a test run monthly to see if they can handle the load.  
  • Evaluate water needs for the entire operation. That must include all animals — sows, weaned pigs, grow/-finish hogs — power washers, showers, even the water needs for employees to drink and use. Your generators enter the picture here as well. Make sure that they can supply enough electricity to run all of the wells that are needed for your operation.
  • Maintain a manual or DC-pumping system to transfer fuel to equipment, vehicles and generators. Too often, fuel trucks cannot meet the immediate needs of a community in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Keep sufficient cash on hand to purchase fuel and supplies, since many credit-card terminals may be inoperable.
  • Find out what options you have with parties awaiting your product or pigs. For example, if you’re supposed to deliver a load of market hogs to your packer every Thursday, what alternative provisions do you have? You should think about and discuss the options ahead of time. In some cases natural disasters will hinder road travel due to safety issues concerning trucks on the roads. The same point applies to growers that are awaiting your nursery pigs, if that’s the business you’re in.  What about boar-semen deliveries? If you’re facing a disaster cleanup, you may not to want your regular boar-semen shipment showing up. The point really is to have protocols in place to address such items.
  • Plan alternative feeding strategies prior to storm events in order to minimize production losses. Feeding facilities and equipment may be at risk in a severe storm. Some buildings may be more susceptible to storm damage; therefore, parking feeding equipment outside may be better than keeping it indoors.
  • Evaluate buildings throughout the operation for things like a potential roof collapse. Make necessary structural corrections.
  • Make sure that your nutrient-management system — including manure pumping systems, handling equipment and storage facilities such as lagoons — will work as needed to prevent an environmental discharge.
  • Plan for employee safety. Prior to a storm, identify where the emergency shelters are located in your community, as well as the protocols and services provided. If you have employee housing, see that there is a safe-shelter option for events like tornadoes. See that there is sufficient food and water and other emergency supplies on hand.
  • Review your insurance coverage and policy statements periodically. Recent storm damage has taxed the insurance industry and policy revisions have occurred. Know what will be covered and to what extent, and make changes if needed.

  While the chances that your operation will encounter a natural (or man-made) disaster seem slim, one simply never knows. The fallout is too great to overlook the fact that while you can’t manage Mother Nature, some pre-planning can go a long way in keeping your operation safe and secure.