Disaster Preparedness and the Cattle Business

Published on Thu, 01/06/2022 - 10:51am

Disaster Preparedness and the Cattle Business.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 Worst-case scenarios, be they natural disasters or unexpected accidents, often leave little to no reaction time. For beef businesses, this goes beyond the essential reactions for human safety; you also have valuable animals, property and assets that warrant protection. Having a plan prepared in advance can make those limited hours or even minutes count. Small steps can significantly reduce the damage done by unfortunate events.

Besides having a plan in place, ranch owners and managers are responsible for ensuring all employees and partners understand the procedures in place. This also includes having adequate resources, tools and information readily provided.

The Human Element
When considering any disaster – tornado, hurricane, fire, power failure, etc. – the top priority should be human safety. Avoiding injury and life-threatening situations should be considered at all points of the response protocols.

Under this umbrella are details such as:
• Emergency contacts
• Sufficient first-aid and poison control kits
• Adequate emergency training
• Clearly marked escaped routes
An overall safe work environment is a crucial prerequisite to disaster responses. Low-stress and clear animal handling facilities, for example, make it much easier and safer for people and cattle to be evacuated in an emergency. The same goes for maintaining roadways and heavily trafficked areas.
In a similar way, well-kept facilities are more likely to withstand ambient weather conditions and avoid accidents such as structural or electrical failure.

Why Preparedness?
An emergency plan can help dictate and streamline responses to all members of your team. A plan can also, according to OSHA, lessen the confusion that accompanies disaster and decrease casualties by clearly identifying and organizing the responsibilities a team must undertake to mitigate maximal damage.
In the pre-planning process, operators can also see the vulnerable areas and strengths around the ranch. This can help you strategically invest in where the safety gaps are in your operation. You can also inventory your facilities, assets and machinery and see how they can be protected both before and during emergency scenarios.

It’s In The Details
According to OSHA’s farm safety information, a well-documented emergency action plan should ensure that response procedures are established before, during and after the situation. Keeping the written methods and resources for various types of cases can help maintain organization.

For natural or manmade disasters, all the essential points should be touched. Escape routes, directions and designated “safe” areas for people and cattle should be made clear. Whether you have several or only a handful of employees and/or family members, be sure to have a system of reporting and accounting for everyone when evacuating or responding to a disaster.

If you have any workers who have specialized medical and/or rescue training (and if you don’t, this may be something well worth considering), be sure they understand what their expectations are. When designating tasks, include the protocols to report an emergency to the proper authorities.

Besides verbally briefing your team on these issues, your written instructions should be kept in an accessible area, along with emergency contacts.

The American Veterinary Medical Association also recommends having a list of alternate sources of food and water for livestock in a long-term disaster. In events such as flooding, hurricanes, and drought food and water sources are easily contaminated, destroyed and/or restricted. A personal backup supply can be a lifesaver in these types of scenarios. Other things you might want to consider are backup generators, fuel and veterinary supplies.

Extend this thinking to the human side of your operation. If you were trapped onsite for a period of time, do you have enough goods on hand to support your family and possibly employees?

In events where you need to evacuate animals, try to plan for transportation and loading. This is where your personal and professional network – think neighbors, professional haulers, etc. – can be leveraged.

Hope for the best, expect the worst
Disaster is never a pleasant topic to dwell on, especially when considering all the intricacies of a cattle business. Everyone likes to think that the worst of the worst will never happen to them. However, heartwrenching stories of ravaged barns, farmland, and facilities cross our newsfeeds year after year. Like you, these individuals all liked to believe such a catastrophe would never visit their door.

Fortunately, preparedness is relatively simple to make even the worst-case scenarios a bit less impactful. Not only will it give operators the confidence that they have the physical plans and resources, but there’s also peace of mind that comes with knowing employees are trained and ready to react appropriately.

Keep in mind you don’t need to develop a plan from scratch. In addition to the guidelines presented here, the internet and livestock organizations have a wealth of resources, outlines and ideas all customizable to your own operation. Your external team such as consultants and veterinarians may also be able to help in this effort.