When a series of hurricanes hit North Carolina this past fall, pork producers in the nation’s No.2 pork producing state faced damaging winds and water – lots of water.

“We got about 50 inches of rain in a month,” says Walter Cherry, executive director of the North Carolina Pork Council. “There’s no way you can prepare for that. You just try to manage the situation as best you can.”

Okay, so maybe you’re not in the hurricane region, but what about tornadoes, blizzards, floods or a fire? Do you know what you would do if a disaster threatened or hit your operation?

“It’s not something most people want to think about,” says Jay Harmon, extension agricultural engineer at Iowa State University. “But it would be wise to have a written emergency plan, and to train employees accordingly.”

According to livestock disaster preparedness guidelines from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, you should have written action plans for each type of disaster that could occur in your area. Store these plans in a safe place with other important papers.

Here are some recommendations from Harmon and Indiana’s BOAH on what your farm’s emergency plan should include:

  • A list of resources (input suppliers, trucks, heavy equipment and so forth), evacuation sites, emergency phone numbers and local authorities.

    For example, Harmon says, you should be aware of your state’s policy on livestock mortality procedures in emergencies. Include the name and phone number of a contact in your plan.

  • Details of your operation’s emergency alarm system. Who gets notified, in what order and how will notification occur?
  • The emergency order of events. In case disaster does strike, list the top priority action relative to the livestock, then the other priorities in descending order.

    For example, Harmon says, for mechanically ventilated nursery buildings, a top priority is to make sure that air moves through those buildings.

  • Identify the best location to house your hogs in each type of disaster. Develop a plan to get them there. Also list several possible evacuation sites for the livestock – like fairgrounds, other producers’ farms or stockyards.
  • A list of which animals are most valuable or the highest priority to try to save. It’s smart to keep a current, written inventory of your animals in a safe place.
  • A record of any feed and medication dosing requirements for the herd.
  • A plan for getting feed and water to the hogs, especially if you have an off-farm feed source that may be unable to reach you in a disaster situation. “If it’s a blizzard, how will you get feed?” Harmon says. “How will you get the snow out of the way?” Also consider how you will get water to the animals if your system is inoperable.

    If you have any advance warning, NCPC’s Cherry recommends that you accomplish these tasks as well:

  • Make sure your backup generators are working and that someone is responsible for running them or checking to see that they are working.
  • Get enough feed on hand for the estimated number of days that you might need it.
  • Prepare your buildings appropriately. This will vary depending on the weather brewing outside. For example: ahead of North Carolina’s hurricanes, producers opened curtains half-way to try to keep some of the rain out, yet keep air flowing to the pigs.
  • Make sure your manure management system is structurally sound and not too full. Of course, this is one area you can’t always protect.

A written preparedness plan that’s been reviewed and distributed to the necessary people can allow you to come through emergencies with a little more sanity than if you are unprepared. While you can’t control what happens, you can control how you react.

“I encourage people to pay attention to what they are doing, be prepared, and hope you never get 50 inches of rain,” Cherry says.

Worth Having on Hand

You should have an emergency disaster kit on hand at all times. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health recommends livestock producers have at least the following items.

  • Portable radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Animal restraint equipment
  • Water buckets
  • Portable generators
  • First-aid kit
  • Stored feeds
  • Flashlights
  • Sharp knife
  • Wire cutters
  • Ropes
  • Bleach, lime