Emergency Preparedness for Animals on the Farm
As spring rolls around with threats of severe storms, lightning, tornadoes, and flood potential, now is a good time to talk about emergency preparedness.
Whether the season rolls in like a lion or out like one, there are some basic things that can be done to help prepare in case disaster strikes. Although many of these tips apply primarily to horses, those with small hobby farms can also benefit by taking heed of some simple tips.
- Records, records, records.
Having up-to-date records on your animals at the farm is of utmost importance. For horses, this includes any recent veterinary procedures and, most importantly, vaccine history. This should also include the most recent Coggins test results. A Coggins test is a common blood test done on horses for a disease called Equine Infectious Anemia, or EIA. This is a reportable infectious disease with no cure and if a horse is found positive, it is usually required to be euthanized.
Thankfully, this disease is mostly eradicated from the U.S. due to such stringent testing requirements. However, all horses attending shows or crossing state lines are required to have this blood test done, usually within the past twelve months.)
Information on the animals’ breed, age, registered name if they have one, and distinguishing markings such as color, brands, or tattoos is helpful, especially when accompanied by a current color photo. If you have animals on your farm that have significant monetary value, proof of ownership is also a vital piece of information to have on hand. When damage to a farm results in loose animals, all these pieces of information are extremely valuable to increase the likelihood that you actually get your animals back.
- Emergency contact list.
Every barn, no matter how big or how small, should have a list of emergency contact numbers posted in plain sight. This list should include, at the least: your veterinarian’s name, address, and phone number; names and phone numbers of your nearest neighbors; your farrier if you have horses; barn help if you have any staff; the local humane society; and the county DNR (Department of Natural Resources) agent.
This last name is my own addition based on a case I helped with a few years ago when an alpaca farm suffered an attack from a black bear. A local DNR agent was called to help council the clients on what to do about such wildlife.
Most important for a horse operation, ensuring every horse has a halter is extremely important if evacuation is required. If you cannot safely restrain and lead an animal off the premises, this creates the potential for even more accidents. An appendix to this axiom is that once halters are purchased, make sure everyone at the barn knows where they are! A halter (or any emergency piece of equipment for that matter) is only as good as the location it was last put.
- Access to a trailer.
Many farms do not have a trailer due to the expense or simply the inability to pull one with their current vehicle. This is totally fine. Just make sure that if this is the case on your farm, make friends with someone who does have a trailer. You never know when you may need one.
- Learn basic first aid.
Veterinary first aid shares a lot of the same basic principles as human first aid: stay calm, keep things clean, stop the bleeding if you can, etc. Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit is another part of this tenet.
And what, you may be asking, constitutes a well-stocked first aid kit for large animals? I’m so glad you asked! Stay tuned, because we’ll talk about that next week!