Get the Herd Out: How Farmers Save Cattle from Natural Disasters


Get the Herd Out: How Farmers Save Cattle from Natural Disasters

July 21, 2021

Article taken from Heifer International; learn more and / or support their causes on

Have you heard of Tony Alsup, a truck driver who bought an old school bus, ripped off the seats, and went to the coast of South Carolina to save dogs and cats on his way home? hurricane Florence? It was a daring last-minute feat that brought 64 animals to safety.

And that made us think. Most of us have contingency plans for what to do in the event of a hurricane, tornado, or flood. These plans generally include pets. But what do breeders do in the face of natural disasters?

Chickens and turkeys need to stay high and dry during storms.

That’s a question for Donna Kilpatrick, manager of farmer engagement at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. The Ranch is a 12,000 acre sustainable farm that is home to pigs, goats, sheep, horses and chickens. When bad weather threatens, Kilpatrick goes through a five-point checklist.

  1. Cattle are moved to higher ground to ensure they are safe from flooding.
  2. Sheep go to barns or other shelters. It’s important to keep sheep as dry as possible, as staying in wet soil for long periods of time can cause them to have hoof problems.
  3. Farmers make sure pigs all have access to hutches, which are like dog kennels, except for pigs. They also provide hay, which the pigs use to make cozy nests isolated from the damp soil.
  4. The Ranch’s chickens spend their time in prairie schooners, which are large movable cages that are moved regularly to keep the birds on the fresh grass. The schooners are anchored so as not to blow away in high winds, and the chickens are given bales of hay so that they can rise from the wet, cold ground.
  5. Vegetables also need protection. Anything that can possibly be harvested before big storms is collected. Farmers dig trenches around the gardens to drain the water.

With a face like this, he just can’t be left on his own in a storm.

Of course, the East Coast farmers who took action similar to this still found themselves and their animals in trouble. Cattle are not as easy to evacuate as dogs and cats, so farmers often have no choice but to leave them behind.

The latest reports show that 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs in North Carolina did not survive Florence and its aftermath. Other animals have survived thanks to human help. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture stepped in to help evacuate the horses stranded in the floodwaters, and countless Good Samaritans flocked with boats, bulldozers and trucks to arrange animal rescues.

An animal, Red the meat cow, was drowning in the floodwaters before being tied to a boat and towed to safety. No longer a meat cow, Red will live out her days with rescuer Mike Stura at Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue in Wantage, New Jersey.

You can support Heifer International by donating here.

Words: Austin Bailey

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